Things that were once science fiction are now becoming science facts. For instance, smart watches which are now the norm where people can talk to their watches, watch videos were once only seen on sci-fi cartoons such as The Jetsons. Lab-grown meat is no longer a science fiction but now is a reality.
Borne out the need to feel guilt-free from eating meat without having to kill the animal, and the rush to balance climate change from raising livestock, food science startup companies are coming up with alternatives to raising livestock and killing them for food.
The latest bioengineering wonder is protein-based food that offers real meat without the animals being killed, in which the meat are being produced in the lab.
Food science US-based startup, Impossible Foods, offers plant-based food wth taste and texture resembling meat, from beef, chicken and pork that are entirely made of plants. Technically, they are also made in the lab as the plant-based food had to undergo changes in the lab to replicate the taste and textures of real meat.
Now Eat Just, a US-based startup that has successfully reproduced chicken meat and eggs without killing the animals, hence the name Eat “Just” in reference to justice to the animals. They do this by culturing the animal cells, chicken, cow, and so on, in the lab. Culturing are techniques of growing micro-organisms in the laboratory, using lab equipments.
In 2020, Eat Just Inc. had permission to sell cultured chicken nuggets in Singapore, followed by cultured chicken breasts. They have also successfully produced lab-based eggs and mayonaise bsed on lab-based eggs.
Hence, lab-grown meat are not vegetarian but fully based on animal cells that replicate the animals, such as chicken, cows and so on.
Interestingly, Qatar Investment Authority has invested over USD200 million in Eat Just, Inc. and they are now setting up a facility in Qatar, a Muslim country.
From an Islamic perspective, there are two main concerns about lab-grown meat: whether the source of the lab-grown cells would be deemed halal and whether it is safe and nutritious for consumption.
Some fatwa or religious rulings are of the opinion that cultured meat can be considered Halal if the the source cell is obtained from a Halal slaughtered animal, and no blood or serum is used in the process. However, in the case of lab-grown meat or cultured meat, Eat Just Inc. uses animal cells from live animals, not slaughtered animals. Hence, in the case of the source animal is still alive, cultured meat is still considered Halal as it can be considered similar to the process of extracting milk and yoghurt from a live permissible animals.
However, food consumption in Islam is not just about Halal – permissible. It is also about Toyyiban – goodness, wholesome good. In Surah al-Baqarah: “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth that is (Halalan) lawful and (Toyyiban) good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” ch2: v 168.
Hence, the question still remains whether cultured meat are safe for human consumption, whether short term or long term, and whether they have the nutritions needed for our health.
According to a study of over 1500 volunteers, regular meat eaters find eating lab-grown meat as too disgusting to eat or that they taste too artificial. In the study, 35% of those who declined to eat lab-grown meat are concerned over the health and safety aspects of the synthetic meat.
In comparison, the same people are willing to eating plant-based protein food.
Lab-grown meats that can have additional nutritional value in instances where additional vitamins and nutritions are added to the lab-grown meat. The meat can be created such that they have lower levels of fat and less antibiotics.
However, the real benefit of lab-grown meat are not the health benefits of the consumers. The real benefits of lab-grown meat is the global environment where it is deemed eco-friendly.
On the other hand, real meat adds to climate change. Animals, livestock such as cows, sheep and poultry, such as chicken, and ducks, have be reared on farms, thereby taking up more land, and consume water and create pollution such as methane gas, and carbon dioxide that contribute to global warning.
In reality, it is still early days for Muslims to determine whether lab-grown meat as Halalan Toyyiban as the long term safety and nutritional aspects for human consumption have yet to be determined.
Farah Ishak is a Content Writer at Halalop. She grew up in the United Kingdom where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Management. Later, she completed her MBA and held senior-level positions in Malaysian based MNC. She left the corporate world to be with her young kids. She is passionate about issues concerning Muslim women, Startups and Muslim businesses in general.
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