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Kosher cultivated chicken: Orthodox Union approval marks “breakthrough” for Jewish dietary law

September 10, 2023
Consumer Packaged Goods

The Orthodox Union (OU), the world’s largest kosher certification agency, has determined that the chicken cell line of Super Meat meets the highest level of kosher supervision: Mehadrin standards. This is being hailed as a pivotal moment in the overlap of religious dietary standards and advanced food technology in the cultivated meat industry and indicates for the first time a wide consensus among Jewish religious factions.

And the successful attainment of kosher certification can pave the way for other religious certifications which follow similar guidelines, such as halal.

The OU and Super Meat, an Israeli start-up, are now working together to establish clear guidelines for the entire supply chain and production process of cultivated meat based on rigorous halachic – Jewish law – and scientific reviews.

Osnat Shotsak, VP of business development at Super Meat, tells Food Ingredients First that meeting religious standards is essential for novel foods for several reasons.

“By respecting religious dietary guidelines, novel foods can be inclusive and accessible to a wider range of people, ensuring that more individuals can enjoy the benefits of new food innovations.”

Moreover, she says that it expands the market reach of cell-based products, as a significant portion of the global population follows religious dietary guidelines. “Companies can access a larger market and customer base by ensuring novel foods meet these standards.”

Another reason is trust and safety, “religious dietary laws have been followed for centuries and are deeply ingrained in the beliefs and practices of many. Meeting these standards can provide consumers an additional layer of trust, especially when introducing novel foods.”

Furthermore, according to Shostak, food is a cultural bridge and “a powerful connector between cultures.”

“A shared culinary experience can act as a universal language, breaking barriers and bringing communities closer together,” she highlights.

“We believe this historic initiative with the Orthodox Union not only broadens the options for kosher consumers worldwide but will also set clear guidelines for other companies in the cultivated meat industry,” adds Ido Savir, CEO of Super Meat.

Setting “unprecedented standards”
Following the kosher recognition, Super Meat wants to thoroughly examine its entire supply chain and meat cultivation processes with the supervision of the OU. The long term goal is to establish clear guidelines for other enterprises in the sector.

“The kosher certification for cultivated meat poses a unique halachic challenge, requiring innovative guidelines that mirror the scientific and technological advancements integral to these novel products,” state Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher and Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, author and teacher at Yeshiva University, US.

“This collaboration aims to bridge the gap between scientific understanding and halachic adjudication, setting unprecedented standards in the cultivated meat industry.”

Is halal next?
According to Shostak, kosher certification holds the potential to significantly influence the trajectory of cultivated meat production, driving acceptance, fostering trust and broadening market reach.

“The successful attainment of kosher certification can pave the way for other religious certifications which follow similar guidelines, such as halal, broadening the market reach even further.”

“The halal certification process shares many similarities with the kosher certification process. Recognizing this, Super Meat is also pursuing halal certification, aiming to appeal to a vast population worldwide that follows these certification standards.”

Moreover, it builds public trust and acceptance of cultivated foods.

“By ensuring cultivated meat meets kosher standards, producers can address potential concerns about the product’s origins, leading to greater acceptance among consumers.”

Nonetheless, not all religious rulers will be so accepting of cell-based meat. In 2021, Indonesia’s ruling Islamic authorities dictated that lab meat is Haram and therefore forbidden for the country’s nearly 230 million Muslims. A commission decided that the absence of slaughter and the process of tissue engineering is unclean.

To prevent more countries following Indonesia’s path, industry has been in talks with religious authorities on these issues ever since the first lab-grown beef burger was unveiled ten years ago at an event in London.

Bridging science and religious philosophy
Super Meat hosted two rabbinic delegations for the OU approval process.

The delegations included leading halachic judges and academics in Israel, contemporary arbiters of Jewish law.

The reviews focused on avian embryogenesis and stem cells, including observing the excision of embryonic stem cells from a fertilized chicken egg before the appearance of blood spots.

Following “multifaceted in-depth discussions and reviews,” the OU concluded that the cell line development process met the “most stringent level of kosher supervision.

“On the scientific front, topics such as embryogenesis were addressed, providing insights into the developmental processes that cultivated meat undergoes. Additionally, there were rigorous conversations surrounding the safety and health aspects of the food, as well as the methodologies involved in cultivated meat production.”

“These discussions were essential to ensure that the product aligns with health standards and that the rabbis had a clear understanding of its production from a technical standpoint.”

“Philosophically, the dialogue delved into topics of enhanced animal welfare, highlighting the potential benefits of cultivated meat in terms of reducing animal suffering and environmental impact. These philosophical conversations examined how obtaining the certification would fit within the broader context of Jewish dietary laws.”

Reaching consumers who follow kosher diets is the latest milestone in a year marked by regulatory breakthroughs in the category. Recently, the UK and Switzerland saw the first cell-based applications in Europe. Moreover, in July, the Netherlands became the first European country to greenlight cultivated meat.

In March, GOOD Meat received the second US-cultivated meat authorization from the FDA.

In other cell-based market developments, Mosa Meat has become today the first company to become B Corp Certified.

By Marc Cervera


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