What Is lab-grown meat and will it be halal?

AMMAN: The question of whether humans should be consuming meat or not has become a multi-faceted one in recent years. While many people have ditched the various sources of meat-based foods for nutritional and health considerations, others are more concerned with the environment and the sustainability of current lifestyles.

Consuming meat has been a human practice for as long as history has been recorded. Needing its proteins and fats for energy, humans have grown fond of meats taken from a number of animals that continue to be hugely farmed particularly for this reason.

However, scientific alarms over the sharply growing rate at which humans have been consuming meat have triggered the modern-day conversation over plant-based diets and the need for innovative solutions that can help preserve the echo system in the long term.

Why do we need lab-grown meat?

According to scientific research, humans have been consuming meat at a faster pace than ever before. The global consumption of meat has more than doubled between 1990 and 2020, which means that humans have been farming and slaughtering more animals than ever before, harming the environmental balance, in addition to the harm some of these animals, grown at higher rates than ever, due to the climate system, such as cows’ release of methane gas, which is one of the greenhouse gases that aggravate the climate crisis.

Amongst those transformational innovations comes the bio-engineered meat, also known as the “no-kill meat”, the one made in labs instead of farms and is ready to provide us with the same nutritional value, if not a better one.

In December 2020, lab-grown meat went on sale for the very first time, when US-based company Eat Just offered its products in Singapore after authorities’ approval.

What is lab-grown meat?

In terms of its production, cultured meat is developed from biopsies of animals, providing consumers with the same proteins they need from regular meat. According to many people who have already tried no-kill meat, it can taste pretty similar to the regular meat we are used to, minus the guilt accompanying eating the latter.

Some scientists have also stressed the importance of the nutritional modifications made to this kind of meat, such as it being produced with less saturated fat and no growth hormones, both deemed harmful to our health, making it a promising and valuable source of healthy and tasty food.

While interest in this alternative meat is growing amongst consumers around the globe, with people expressing excitement to enjoy meals with no more guilt, many are wondering whether or not it will accommodate the different religious diet rules, such as it being halal (permissible) for Muslim consumers.

Is it Halal?

While there have been no official statements by the International Union of Muslim Scholars over the consumption of Stem Cell Meat, a number of Muslim legal experts have been discussing the matter, hoping to reach a more unanimous conclusion over the issue in the future, and admitting that its novelty, familiarity, and lack of details over production processes pose a real challenge for them and whether they can clear it for use by 1.5 billion Muslims or not.

Similarly, IslamQA website, which is regarded as one of the most popular online sources of Fatwas, has refrained from issuing a final ruling in this regard, saying that further studies have to be carried out before deciding whether Muslims can consume lab-grown meat or not and that such research should be based on information provided by scientists in labs, explaining the details of the manufacturing process.

However, a number of legal experts in Islamic laws have weighed into the issue individually, providing guidance over the conditions that can make cultured meat a halal option for consumption by Muslims.

In Kuwait, a number of professors at the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies at Kuwait University explained that lab-grown meat can be halal for Muslims, as long as stem cells were taken from animals that Muslims are allowed to eat, and where the production process does not involve materials that should not be consumed by Muslims, such as blood, blood serum, or blood plasma.

They also stressed the importance that animals from which cells are being derived for the production of cultured meat should be either alive but unharmed, meaning no pain is involved, or slaughtered according to the Islamic tradition.

Questions over the consumption of lab-grown meat by followers of certain religions are still not the only ones lingering at the time being, as many are still concerned with its prices and whether such futuristic meat will cater to people from different economic backgrounds, in addition to the rate of its production and the variety at which it can be produced.

© Al Bawaba

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