It may look like a pig, it has the smell of pork and even the taste of pork – but do not call it pork.
His arrival of the image of the artificial meat produced in factories has expanded the culinary horizon for many observant Jews in recent years. Suddenly you can find artificial meat cheeseburgers in kosher restaurants that do not violate the ban on mixing milk and meat.
Can the Impossible Foods fake pork get a kosher seal?
The very word “pig” is difficult to digest, said Rabbi Menachem Ganak, CEO of the largest kashrut system in the world, OU Kosher. The OU board voted earlier this year against applying for kashrut licensing for the Impossible Pork product.
The prominence of OU Kosher, a division of the U.S. Orthodox Union, one of the leading organizations of religious Jews in America, makes its rejection difficult for other kosher organizations to ignore. The OU said they may reconsider the decision in the future.
While many animals are considered non-kosher – including many mammals, almost all insects, all reptiles, mollusks, etc. – Jews have a particularly complex relationship with the pig.
The Torah forbids eating pork because it does not raise rumen, which affects the way the animal eats and digests food. Some leading researchers think the ban stems from the pig’s dietary preferences, which are sick to almost nothing. Other ancient cultures in the Near East, including Islam, refrain from eating pork for the same reasons, historians say.
At various times in history, persecutors of Jews from all periods, from the ancient Greeks through the Christians in the Middle Ages to the Nazis in the 20th century used pork as a kind of test for the Jews – would they desecrate their faith or prefer to die? This is an association that is hard to break, said Rabbi Ganak: “People have a very strong reaction to the word ‘pig’.”
Hani Applebaum, a blogger who writes about kosher food in New York and author of a cookbook, said she has no problem eating Impossible’s cheeseburger but “I have a hard time swallowing the idea of eating something called ‘pork’ and it should taste like pork.”
“This is probably the most important decision for 21st century Judaism”
The ban on pork has for hundreds of years been one of the pillars defining Jewish communities around the world, and has helped establish social ties. The growing popularity of artificial meats of plant origin is challenging the ban, said David Zvi Kalman, a researcher and director of new media at the Shalom Hartman Institute in New York, which focuses on Jewish research and education.
“This is probably the most important decision for 21st century Judaism,” Kalman said of the OU’s decision regarding the Impossible Pork product.
The competing company Beyond Meat said that they are still seeking a kosher certificate for the Beyond Pork product, which they said was created for the Chinese market and is currently only available in China.
“We’ll have to see how it goes,” said Haim Vogelman, communications director at OK Kosher, another American organization that gives kosher stamps, which has meanwhile approved the other Beyond Meat products. The organization said the company did not ask OK Kosher to give a kosher seal to its pork product.
Michael Eisenberg, co-founder of the Tel Aviv Venture Capital Fund, said the question of counterfeit pork is an example of the challenges faced by regulators using old laws to test new technological developments.
Dennis Woodside, president of Impossible Foods, said the company will continue its dialogue with organizations issuing kosher certificates. Although its target market for the Impossible Pork product is people who already eat pork, he said, the company wants to “be everywhere, in every market in the world.”
Rabbi Ganak of OU Kosher says he thinks maybe the skeptics will one day be convinced and allow the fake pig to get a kosher certificate.
“This is not a decision based on halakhah … we can examine it in the future,” he said. The decision was based on the emotional reaction that people who eat kosher expressed to the idea of eating pork products with a kosher seal in the past that were also simulated and did not contain any real pork.
The “pig” also does not receive halal approval
Islam also forbids eating pork. Impossible Foods said it tried to get a halal, or “permitted,” product pass from the U.S. Islamic Food and Nutrition Council, but rejected them there as well. The Islamic Organization and OU Kosher both approved Impossible Burger and Impossible. Sausage, two other products of the company.
Timothy M. Hyatt, vice president of Islamic Services of America, a rival organization that grants the Halal seal, said his organization made it clear to Beyond Meat that no product identified as a pig would receive such approval, even though the company had not submitted an orderly request.
“We know on a perceptual level that the word ‘pork’ is not halal. American Islamic services recommend alternative descriptions like ‘barbecue-flavored’ when the original description may imply something non-halal,” Hyatt said. His organization grants Halal approval for burgers, hot dogs and meatballs from the Beyond Meat company.
The fake meats do not press the same sensitivity buttons in the Hindus, many of whom are vegetarians for reasons that religion recommends but does not require. Matt McDermott, senior communications director at the Hindu Institute of America, said no one in his organization has encountered Hindu believers who are not willing to eat these products, which are entirely based on plant sources.
Rabbi Ganak said rabbis are still grappling with the question of how to apply the kosher rules to cultured meat, expecting the cattle to be accepted but pork not to be accepted.
Hyatt from the Islamic Services of America said his organization and other organizations that grant halal approval are not likely to give halal approval to civilized meat of any kind. The reason, he said, is that most Islamic sages see the process as “changing God’s creations at the DNA level.”
The kosher authorities of the State of Israel have not expressed their opinion on the products of Impossible Foods or Beyond Pork, although the approval of OU Kosher and OK Kosher is acceptable to the Israeli kosher authorities.
Kosher inspectors from the rabbinate in Israel recently forced restaurants in Jerusalem to change the word bacon to “pikon” on products that are not made from pork.
Zvi Muller, owner of Crave, a kosher restaurant, said he should have changed the phrase “lamb bacon” in his menus to “peacock.” He said he argued to the rabbis that many products today made from beef, turkey, lamb and even mushrooms are called bacon, as long as they are served in thin strips that go through the proper aging and smoking process.
Muller said he was determined to point out that the definition of the Mariam-Webster dictionary supports the way he uses the word, but has never had a chance to present his claims.
Kosher authorities in Jerusalem said at the time that they were responding to complaints from customers who were outraged that something called bacon was served in restaurants that had a kosher certificate.
Muller compared the matter to the way the cheddar cheese served on steak burgers in his restaurant is generally vegan, and it is written that it is vegan. “When its name is lamb bacon, what might you think it is made of?” said.
Muller added that it is not a matter of training supervisors.
“Everyone can say ‘no’. But consider Kula – it requires real wisdom,” he said, referring to a phrase from the sources. “They went the easy way.”