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.