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Halal or not? Islamic scholars rule on lab-grown meat

Meat grown in a lab could be considered halal, according to advice from Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia to a US food start-up, as the industry begins to look into product certification for items that adhere to religious dietary regulations.

San Francisco-based Eat Just asked three sharia law scholars to examine whether meat from animals raised under artificial conditions may be halal. The scholars came to the conclusion that it could, subject to a number of requirements, including that any stem cells utilized to create it come from halal sources.

A few lab-grown meat start-ups have received approval from US and Singapore regulators, despite the fact that the industry is still far from being on a commercial scale. Companies have been attempting to determine whether their products would be suitable for the billions of consumers who follow a halal or kosher diet.

The process is far from simple because religious dietary certification varies from country to country and religious authorities across jurisdictions may have differing opinions.

Mirte Gosker, managing director of alternative protein advocacy group the Good Food Institute in Asia Pacific, said that while the Eat Just decision does not immediately change the halal status of cultivated meat products on the market, it laid the groundwork for commercialisation.

“This week’s ruling provides much-needed insight on what an approval road map might look like, and we expect that start-ups will immediately begin adapting their production processes to satisfy this new guidance,” she said.

Lab-grown or “cultured” meat is made from animal cells and grown in bioreactors, in contrast to plant based meat — produced by companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — which is made of ingredients including pea and soy protein. Over the past year, investors have been betting on cultured meat over the plant-based version.

The Islamic scholars advised that to be considered halal, the product’s cell line had to derive from an animal that Muslims are allowed to eat, that was slaughtered according to Islamic law, and that was fed permitted nutrients. They also stipulated the finished product should be edible, healthy and approved by the relevant regulatory agency.

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