A new restaurant called “The Chicken” recently opened near Tel Aviv in Ness Tziona. Adjacent to the Supermeat production plant, it is essentially a test kitchen for lab-grown meat, or what the chef refers to as “cultured chicken.” As such, diners are not required to pay for their meal but are asked to give feedback. Diners can choose to sit at the bar and watch the chefs at work or they can sit in the dining room where they can see the factory where the protein for their meal is being produced.
Most of the items on the menu, notably the appetizers and desserts, are conventionally upscale with non-meat selections like celeriac root salad, seared butternut squash, and smoked acorn squash tortellini. But the main courses, limited to chicken burgers, are decidedly unconventional versions of conventional classics. The “chicken fillets”, made from protein grown from chicken cells grown in a bioreactor, are served on semi-sweet brioche bun with some very appealing toppings. and The classic chicken burger is topped with seasonal greens, roasted cremini mushrooms, red onion relish, and a mustard and chive aioli. The Spicy Fall Burger is served with avocado, chii flakes, shallots, baby beetroot leaves, and carmelized apple chutney.
After three years of research and development, Supermeat says it has overcome the three main obstacles in producing cultured meat for the commercial marker: a manufacturing process that can produce meat on a commercial scale, a clear path to cost parity with animal products, and the production of high quality, nutritious, and tasty chicken products. While lab-grown meat doesn’t yet have federal approval, it could be on the market as soon as 2021. Within one to two years, Supermeat hopes to launch in restaurants. In five years, it plans to launch commercial-scale plants, and it expects to reach cost parity with traditional meat shortly afterward.
Ido Savir, CEO, SuperMeat stated: “The launch of The Chicken is an important step toward a world where cultured meat is accessible to everyone. There is strong public demand for transparency of how food comes to the table. We’re proud to share the full story of SuperMeat chicken for the first time —offering production and dinner all under the same roof, from our plant to your fork.”
“Our production platform is based on avian stem cells that possess the innate ability to multiply indefinitely, eliminating the need to go back to the animal to produce more meat, essentially removing animals from the equation,” Savir said.
Many vegetarians and animal rights activists, though certainly not all of them, do not consider cultured meat to violate their moral convictions but the new branch of food technology is presenting a wide range of questions for Torah observant Jews: Is it really meat? Can it be considered kosher since it doesn’t have the traditional signs of a kosher animal (hooves, chewing cud, feathers, scales, fins)? If so, can it be kosher since it cannot be slaughtered in the way described by the Torah (shechitah)? If it isn’t meat, can it be eaten with milk, which is forbidden? Is meat grown from pig stem cells kosher? Is taking the stem cells from a living animal considered ever min hachai, ripping a limb from a living creature, which is forbidden to Jews and non-Jews, according to the seven Noahide laws?
Some rabbis suggest that the basis for lab-grown meat was described in the Talmud. In tractate Sanhedrin 59b, the rabbis discuss “meat that descended from heaven”.
They tell of Rabbi Shimeon ben Chalafta, who was walking on the road when lions came and roared at him. He quoted, “The young lions roar for prey and beg their food from God” (Psalms 104:21), and two lumps of meat fell from heaven. The lions ate one and left the other. Rabbi ben Chalafta brought a piece of this meat to the study hall and asked: Is this fit to eat or not? The scholar answered: “Nothing unfit descends from heaven.” Rabbi Zera asked Rabbi Abbahu: “What if something in the shape of a donkey were to descend?” He replied: “You howling bird, did they not say that no unfit thing descends from heaven?”
The same tractate, on page 65b, deals with a similar issue, reading: “Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Oshaia would spend every Sabbath eve studying the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation, one of the early books of Kabbala) by means of which they created a calf and ate it.”