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Leviticus didn’t mention anything about cell agriculture: Could lab-grown pork be kosher?

Leviticus didn’t mention anything about cell agriculture: Could lab-grown pork be kosher?
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An employee at Langer's Delicatessen, a Jewish deli, slices pastrami on February 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

According to Book of Leviticus, animals fit for human consumption must fit two categories: they have a completely split hoof and they chew their cud.

Pigs, though they have split hooves, don’t chew cud and therefore, “You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.” But what about lab-grown pork?

As science makes progress on developing cell-cultured or “clean meat,” the question of whether this meat, and its pork variant, would be considered kosher, is up for debate among Rabbis and Jewish thinkers.

This lab-grown meat is created through a process by which a type of cell is reverted to a different stage in its development and tricked into becoming a different kind of cell, which then proliferates if placed in a nutrient-rich environment. And voila: meat. The process still has a ways to go and currently is more apt to producing ground meat than a rib-eye. But there are eight companies working on perfecting the method, three of which are in Silicon Valley, California.

Which leads us to the question of whether “clean meat” is kosher?

That might depend on the way the cells used in the lab-grown meat are obtained. For example, Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the kosher division at the Orthodox Union, one of Jewish groups that certifies foods as kosher in the U.S., has said that lab-grown chicken could be kosher if the cells were taken from a chicken that was slaughtered in accordance with kosher rules. But what does that mean in the case of clean pork?

If you keep kosher or halal, would you ever consider eating lab-grown meat? What about pork?

Guests:

Chase Purdy, business reporter for Quartz; he is writing book on the future of meat

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the kosher division at the Orthodox Union, one of Jewish groups that certifies foods as kosher in the U.S.

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