Friday, February 09, 2007

Late Night Altered-Consciousness Halakhah Conversations Come to Life

How many humorous anecdotes must there be about those drunken late night conversations that begin thusly,
"Well would it be kosher if you grew the meat in a vat?"
It turns out that we are not far from having to actually deal with this as a genuine halakhic matter.
Accoring to TimesOnline,

In different parts of the world, rival research teams are racing to produce meat using cell-culture technology. Several patents have been filed. Scientists at Nasa has been experimenting since 2001 and the Dutch Government is sponsoring a $4 million (£2 million) project to cultivate pork meat.

The idea may be stomach-turning, but the science for making pork in a Petri dish already exists.

Put simply, the process relies on a muscle precursor cell known as a myoblast, a sort of stem cell preprogrammed to grow into muscle. This cell is extracted from a living animal, and encouraged to multiply in a nutritional broth of glucose, amino acids, minerals and growth factors — Churchill’s “suitable medium”. The cells are poured on to a “scaffold” and placed in a bioreactor, where they are stretched, possibly using electrical impulses, until they form muscle fibres.

The resulting flesh is then peeled off in a “meat-sheet”and may be ground up for sausages, patties or nuggets.

Granted, this processis not yet what one might call reasonably priced...growing about a serving of the stuff costs around $10,000, butthe very fact that it is possible at all oughtto give us all pause.
It will at least certainly give us opportunities to debate endlessly whetheror not its ethical to eat, whether one could make it kosher if it's cells are those of an animal otherwise kosher, and if one might then reasonably (well, alright, putting aside marit ayin) eat pork cultured inthis way, and still have it be kosher. Oh and think of the Swiftian possibilities!

And if that doesn't offer you enough possibilities for new halakhic argument, consider this: tefillin made from animal-less leather!

Soylent Green?

Crossposted to Jewschool

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