Kosher startups

There are quite a few pages in the VaYikra (Leviticus) listing permitted and forbidden foods. Christians skip over the book, because it seems so foreign, has unpronounceable words, and is dry and boring. But for us, VaYikra is the book that shows us how to live in what to eat. 

To the non-Jewish person, sometimes the kosher business can seem confusing and a little over-the-top. Bacon is a no-no, chickens are in, yet for some reason eagles are out. Salmon is a delicacy but catfish are unclean. And as for that cheeseburger, that’s definitely off the menu. 

Up until the 19th century any Jewish person would never have dared to tuck into a plate of shrimps. Our people have always and only ever kept kosher. But where modernity is king, many Jewish people tuck into bacon, and some have tried to offer an explanation for the seemingly arbitrary list of what is permitted or forbidden to eat.

The rabbinical authorities deemed the likes of the dietary laws in a different category to those of the 10 Commandments. The power of rationale and intelligence helps the vast majority of human beings understand why it is wrong to murder and steal. That same rationale is powerless when it comes to the arbitrary dietary laws. The lack of understanding of the prohibitions, yet the willingness to adhere to them, is therefore an expression of both our intellectual limitations and the trust we need to put in the Master of the Universe that we don’t always have to understand. 

It is not only Jews today who are conscious of what they eat. The world is becoming more vegan conscious and Israeli companies are looking for a solution to feeding the global population. 

One start-up in USA is producing “cultured meat,” which grows actual meat from cells taken from a live animal and conjures up a steak using a 3D printer. Many would balk at a “steak” that used only one cell to produce the consistency, texture and taste of the real thing. But even though this alternative could be good for both the planet and humanity, for Israel, the problem is nothing to do with it being pure vegan, but rather, if it is kosher.  

Even if the animal is kosher, it doesn’t make it kosher. Dietary laws are not only concerned with what we eat but how the animal is slaughtered. For hundreds of years the rabbis have determined how to do this correctly. A “Shochet,” or ritual slaughterer, is a trained and knowledgable man. He is as far from a butcher that can be. He needs to know the intricacies of ritual slaughter and ensure the animal suffers as little as possible. In the case of fake meat, the issue is if the animal was alive when the cells were taken – because this would make it cruel, and non-kosher. 

Kindness makes it kosher. Hence Israeli start-ups who are jumping on the bandwagon of alternative meat are keen on finding production methods that will meet the timeless dietary laws which were given to the Jewish people for the sake of the animal kingdom and humanity.