The policy fight over cell cultured meat has started

I recently spoke with Evan Kleiman on her wonderful KCRW show, Good Food, to chat about cell-cultured meat and the initial rumblings in Washington over how the product will be marketed. The conversation was particularly enjoyable for me, in part because her questions were so great. Check it out

You can also read the corresponding story, which was published on Quartz in February.

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Awake in the canals

 Unable to sleep, a view from an Amsterdam houseboat in the quiet hours of the night.

Unable to sleep, a view from an Amsterdam houseboat in the quiet hours of the night.

 A spray of color along the Old World passages that circle Amsterdam's city center.

A spray of color along the Old World passages that circle Amsterdam's city center.

AMSTERDAM — For four days I got to live on a houseboat in a canal in the Netherlands. I was six hours removed from my native timezone, tucked away in one where I barely slept, opting instead to stare dreamily out my bedroom window by night as passing boats rippled the water in a vain attempt to lull me into another place.

There's a saying in that tiny country (though from whom it originated I don't know) that, "God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands." It makes sense taking into consideration the human ingenuity it took to forge a country below sea level and behind seawalls. It also applies to the area of my research. What better place on earth to foster the idea of an environmentally-friendly meat, grown without animals, as a means of making a more efficient food system?

But I'm already familiar with the story of Willem van Eelen. It was the daughter of the late-van Eelen with whom I sought to meet on this trip, along with a handful of entrepreneurial spirits who are working hard to make cell-cultured meat a reality.

My journey took me deep into the city center, to its north, and also to the south of the country, where in a small town the treaty was signed that officially formed the European Union in 1992. 

The trip was invaluable, and I'm increasingly excited to share what I'm learning about this very particular corned of the food space, and the people who inhabit it.

UPDATE: In the previous post I'd mentioned the issue of so-called 'clean meat' being kosher. The conversation around that topic is evolving. My latest on the subject in Quartz.



When high-tech meat collides with Leviticus.

NEW YORK — The more I explore the concept of clean meat, the more I grow curious about what happens when new food technologies collide with established culinary culture. Most recently, this curiosity took me down a religious rabbit hole. 

What happens when Silicon Valley startups start brushing up against millennia-old religious rules over what's kosher and halal? It's an important question to ask, especially considering more than 1.6 billion people in the world today are Muslim (about 16 million are Jewish).  And these are sizable markets, worth more than $1.6 trillion. 

I discovered that religious scholars in both major religions are questioning this new technology, though no consensus has been formed. The thing is, with the first clean meat product anticipated to hit the commercial market sometime this year, the pressure is one to figure out whether true believers will be able to incorporate this high-tech meat into their diets.

My reporting for this took me to New York's Upper East Side, where I sat across from Chernor Saad-Jalloh, an imam at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. As he learned for the first time about clean meat, he reacted both with bewilderment and a calm thoughtfulness. The experience was a reminder of just how sacred the act of eating is for humans. No matter how much money you make, where you live, or what religion (or lack thereof) you prescribe, food is a common denominator for all of us.

"I'm glad you came by today," Saad-Jalloh told me as I gathered my coat and scarf after the interview. "I learned something new today."

"Me too," I told him. "Me too."

Check out the story in Quartz here.