Can Meat Made in a Lab Be Kosher or Halal? These Companies Hope So.

The companies that grow meat from cultured cells present their offering as an environmentally friendly and ethical alternative to consuming protein from slaughtered chickens, cows and other farm animals.

And as they look to appeal to followers of Islamic and Jewish traditions, they are also trying to make the case that the cultivated meat can be halal and kosher.

Strictly observant Muslims and Jews will not eat food without those religious certifications. The rules for each are distinct but overlap in some ways. For example, the animals must be slaughtered in specific ways and the meat must contain no trace of blood. Some foods, such as pork, are not allowed.

GOOD Meat, a California-based cultivated meat producer, commissioned three of Shariah scholars to determine if lab-made meat could be halal, and the group came to the conclusion earlier this month that it was possible.

Also this month, SuperMeat, a Tel Aviv-based cultivated meat company, announced that it received certification from Orthodox Union Kosher, known as OU Kosher, the world’s largest kosher certification agency.

Lab-grown meat could soon begin to make it to consumers’ tables after the Department of Agriculture gave approval in June to GOOD Meat, and another lab-meat company UPSIDE Foods, to produce cell-cultured poultry products. The process to make cultivated meat starts with a cell line that is obtained from animals and replicated. (For this reason, it won’t satisfy the ethical concerns of vegans who refuse to use any animal products.)

The cells are put into a bioreactor, a stainless steel vessel that provides the energy and warmth needed for growth. The cells are immersed in nutrients, including amino acids and vitamins, similar to what the animal would have been fed, according to GOOD Meat.

Mohammad Hussaini, vice president of global Halal affairs for the American Halal Foundation, a major certifier that audits products and facilities for compliance with halal standards, said that more meat-cultivating companies have been seeking out his organization’s expertise in the last year.

Since many of the companies are early stages, he has yet to see any successfully make halal products.

“There’s interest, but nobody has got it right just yet,” Mr.Hussaini said.

There is also incentive for companies to adhere to kosher standards because those products are popular among a wide range of consumers, said Avrom Pollak, president of Star-K, a Maryland-based kosher certification agency.

“If it’s kosher-certified, some Muslims — not all Muslims — will accept it,” Dr. Pollak said. “Even with the general public there’s a perception out there that when something is kosher-certified, it has enhanced value.”

Meeting the requirements to be kosher or halal calls for some care to match different sets of rules documented in the traditions’ religious texts and their adherents’ practices around the world.

Halal is Arabic for permissible or lawful. Halal food needs to adhere to Islamic law in how its sourced, processed and prepared. Some foods are forbidden in both traditions, such as the flesh of pigs or products containing blood.

The group working with the GOOD Meat company consists of advisers to the Royal Court in Saudi Arabia and professors, also based in that kingdom. It announced on Sept. 10 that cultivated meat could be deemed halal if it met specific criteria:

  • The cell line it is derived from is from an animal that is permissible to eat, such as a chicken or a cow. Animals such as pigs and reptiles are prohibited.

  • The cell line comes from an animal that has been slaughtered according to Islamic law, which says it should be done by a Muslim of “sound mind” who would cut the animal’s throat with a clean and sharp knife.

  • The nutrients fed to the cells do not include any substances that are forbidden to be eaten such as spilled blood, alcohol or materials taken from animals that have not been slaughtered properly or pigs.

  • The cultivated meat is edible and it does not cause harm to one’s health.

Those principles could help the company to develop a standard for its products, Josh Tetrick, the co-founder and chief executive officer of GOOD Meat, said.

“This ruling for us impacts how we think about building our process,” Mr. Tetrick said. “From now on, we want to develop cell lines that are meeting that criteria laid out.”

As the Muslim population grows, so does its meat consumption, Mr. Tetrick said, and he doesn’t want exclude the millions of people who eat halal food.

The global halal meat market was valued at $202 billion in 2021 and is estimated to reach $375 billion by 2030, according to Straits Research, an India-based market research firm.

Mr. Hussaini, who is not affiliated with the panel commissioned by GOOD Meat, said he believes there is a potential for cultivated meats to be considered halal.

“There is a path to it as we understand the current international standards and the theological opinions,” he said.

Some in the industry believe that the kosher market also presents an opportunity for the lab-grown meat. There are about 12.35 million kosher consumers in the United States, according to Star-K.

To be considered kosher, meat must come from animals slaughtered by a person trained in how to butcher animals according to Jewish laws, which involves removing forbidden parts and also bans consuming pigs and other animals, according to OU Kosher.

SuperMeat bypassed the slaughtering rules completely by using a cell line from a fertilized egg. This is how the company was able to meet kosher meat’s Mehadrin standards, which is the most stringent level of kosher supervision, said Ido Savir, CEO of SuperMeat.

The company is also in talks with halal-certification agencies, but its line of chicken products is still in the early stages and not available commercially. The company is looking to partner with other meat producers to supply them with cultivated meat. It expects to start selling its meat at the end of 2024 or early 2025 in the United States.

Overall, Mr. Savir is hoping that the accreditation from the certification agency will help garner trust from consumers to try a largely novel product.

Even with certification, consumers may hesitate. Adnan Durrani, the CEO and founder of Saffron Road, a Connecticut-based halal food brand, doesn’t anticipate selling cultivated meats. They seem heavily processed, he said, which he doesn’t think would appeal to his customers, who have motivations besides religious beliefs.

“Our consumers are very dedicated to natural, organic products that are clean,” Mr. Durrani said. “I don’t think they have much interest in it from what I’ve seen.”