business news in context, analysis with attitude

Fascinating story in the Washington Post about how food technology is making it difficult for theologians and religious believers to know what is forbidden and what isn’t.

The story notes that “dietary restrictions are woven into religious texts, the Old Testament and the New, the Koran, the Vedas and the Upanishads.” But, “in this era of plenitude and choice and disruptive technology, what is permissible, what is forbidden and what is flouting the letter of religious law? The food system is in flux, the rise of plant-based meats and the promise of cell-cultured meats bending categories such that legislation, ideology and theology are scrambling to keep up.”

For example, Tyson “is investing in a company that will launch plant-based shrimp early next year, raising a curious question. Will it be kosher? The short answer is its ingredients — which mimic the verboten crustacean with a proprietary algae blend — could well be both kosher and halal. Once the product launches, the company will seek certification so that Jews who keep kosher and Muslims — certain Muslim groups avoid shellfish — can enjoy a shrimp cocktail, scampi, a po’ boy or ceviche.”

But: “If God says no pork, how does He feel about a very persuasive forgery? And if only beef from the forequarter is permitted, how will observant Jews parse meat grown in a lab, no bones and no quarters at all? How do you bleed an animal with no blood or slaughter an animal humanely if there’s no slaughter? And if you give up meat for Lent, what constitutes a cheat?”
KC's View:
File this in the “problems that just a few years ago we never thought about” folder.

It is an interesting moral dilemma. If you’re not supposed to eat meat for religious reasons, and someone gives you a plant-based burger replacement, is it a violation of the spirit of the law, as opposed to the letter of the law, if you eat it?

I suppose it depends on how religious or devout you are, and how to define such matters as being important to how you practice your faith. But I do love a good moral dilemma … especially other people’s moral dilemmas.