From the Publisher’s Desk
Muhammad Munir Chaudry
Veggie burgers have been around for a number of years. These are meat substitutes made from vegetables and though they don’t look like real beef burgers, they taste pretty good. Well, the future is changing that. The next generation of faux hamburgers are being made to look, cook, and taste like real beef burgers. They even bleed! And some are already available in the marketplace.
New startups are also working on commercializing meat that is grown in a factory rather than requiring breeding and slaughtering cattle. Supported by Silicon Valley capital, these startups have already been able to produce these ‘clean meat’ or ‘cultured meat’ burgers, as they are currently known. Now they are working on commercializing the process so the costs are competitive with conventional meat. They are still a few years from that. What’s driving this innovation? They cite global population growth, higher demand for meat, the environmental impact of conventional meat production, animal welfare issues, and the intricacies of religious slaughter of animals as the driving force to grow meat in a factory.
The process is both simple and complicated. Basically it involves taking cells from an animal, say a cow, and growing the cells in the lab to produce meat. The cultured cells can be formulated into a similitude of ground beef patty or a particular cut of beef for that matter. It looks, smells, cooks, bleeds, and tastes like conventional meat.
Beef isn’t the only focus of attention. Others are working on poultry and seafood products.
So would these products be considered halal? On the surface, it may seem the answer is obviously yes; but as a new development with no obvious precedent this requires deep consideration. Where do the starter cells come from, a live cow or slaughtered cattle and which part of the cattle? If slaughtered, was it slaughtered according to Islamic requirements? How will these products be labeled? Will regulations differentiate between these products and conventional meat products? Which federal jurisdiction will be responsible for the inspection of these plants, the USDA or the FDA? One state, Missouri, has already ruled that these products can be considered and labeled as meat.
I will attend and speak at the Good Food Conference in Berkeley, California this month. The conference theme is The Future of Meat and the focus is the commercialization of plant-based and ‘clean meat’ products. Expect to hear more about this in the near future and don’t be surprised if you start seeing more of these products in the supermarket. IFANCA will be discussing these issues with the scholars, industry, and scientists to determine the halal status of these new products.
Muhammad Munir Chaudry, president