Another very familiar science fiction trope is the idea of the the “magically’ produced instant food. In Star Trek you merely order the computer and it creates a whole meal for you, Other SF universes have “food synthesizers” which will produce anything programmed into them. Since they are fictional, we are normally not given any idea how the food is produced, but I can think of some possibilities (I’m not making this less magical, just adding in some extra pretend mechanisms so there is something to talk about).
- 1. “Vat grown food”. That’s a phrase you read in some books, broadly implying there is a culture of cells which continuously grows outside of any particular animal and produces meat without any sentient creature being involved. I could further subdivide it into:
a. Cultures from animal cells – the original cells came from a chicken, a cow, a pig. This is barely magical as people are almost there now.
b. Cultures from something like yeast, fungus etc
- 2. “Pure magic” – the food is created out of thin air / energy-to-matter transformation / some incredibly cool chemistry or nano-engineering which assembles complex molecules out of raw elements.
Now – in case 1a we can imagine there might be a bunch of problems if you want to make them. If the original cells came from an animal, would we need to worry that the animal was kosher and correctly slaughtered? So cultured pig meat would be out? I assume so, though I have no proof that the pig non-kosherness continues when cells are grown in a lab. Maybe someone has a clear source or reasoning. What about a good kosher chicken which was then cultured in a vat? I made an assumption that we’d want to take cells from a correctly slaughtered bird, because I think there might otherwise be a problem of aiver min ha-chay (איבר מן החי) eating a limb from a living animal or trefa…. but assuming I have now grown a big lump of chicken meat, outside of a chicken….can I just carve bits off and eat it, or does this also need some sort of shechita?
Case 1b might be simpler – if we eat mushrooms and yeast now we ought to have no problems eating them in the future – even if they are somehow cultivated to taste exactly like beef or pork or crab, that doesn’t give them a meat-y or non-kosher status. So putting cheese on a mushroom burger which tastes exactly like beef ought to be ok….but then you always get caught out by the mar’it ayin (מראית עין) looking bad catch-all which says “people will think it’s OK to eat cheeseburgers, so we’d better not. My feeling is that after a certain amount of time when people had got used to divorcing the idea of a good burger or steak from the idea of animals, this might become OK.
As a side point, and I’m really asking from ignorance here, would a Muslim have a problem eating yeast based products if the yeast was the same type used to make wine?
Case 2 is more interesting to me. On the face of it, I’d assume a magic or chemically assembled meal cannot possibly be non-kosher even if it resembles a very non-kosher dish. I wonder if rabbis would institute some sort of new legislation to cover foods which look too bad or are too closely related to something non-kosher. For example – I’m assuming to “synthesize” a prawn cocktail, you would need you computer to have one time (or a million times) analyzed a prawn cocktail in painstaking detail, noting the chemical composition and temperatures in millions of places. Assuming this can be done and then has been done, is the stored “recipe” somehow tainted with non-kosherness, such that simulating a new prawn cocktail from it would transfer the over (so you now have a non-kosher product)? Ditto for a cheeseburger… I analyzed a non-kosher product…is the analysis non-kosher? One slightly more unusual case – what if I analyzed kosher meat, then analyzed kosher cheese, produced them separately in my machine, then cooked them together? I can imagine we would say neither of the products is actually meat or milk so it’s OK. I can also imagine saying the exact opposite.
Now, if I’m magically creating food out of air (or maybe old garbage, or dirt) what if I assemble “bread”? (I’ll write “bread” to distinguish it from the original bread made in a traditional way). This “bread” is based on a design from a leavened product, but has never been in the position where water mixed with grain-flour and sat for 18 minutes. Is it chametz? Can I eat it on Peasch?
What do you think?
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