It is not intrinsically prohibited to consume if the cells were extracted from a live animal or one that was slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines. However, you should be very cautious until more research on its long-term effects is released since it is not from the natural food that Allah created for us.
Cultured (or lab grown) meat is produced through in vitro cultures of animal cells. The world’s first cultured hamburger patty was fried at a news conference in London in August of 2013 and the first commercial sale of cell-cultured meat was in Singapore in December 2020. New technology requires unprecedented analysis.
The general principle in Islam in that everything is allowed until specifically proven to be forbidden. Allah says, “He it is Who created for you all that is on earth.” [Al-Baqarah 2:29]
The first objection presented by scholars to consuming cultured meat is that it must come from a lawful animal. This is a valid contention, so if the cells come from a cow or chicken, that is fine, but if they come from a pig, or from a mixture of different animals where one of them is a pig, it would be forbidden.
The second objection is regarding slaughter. Even lawful animals must be slaughtered according to proper Islamic ḥalāl standards. I do not agree with this contention because the stem cells used for producing cultured meat usually comes from a live animal using minimally invasive procedures. Since it never grew into a live animal it did not need to be slaughtered in the first place.
The third objection is whether the cells are impure even if taken from a living animal. The precedent for this in Islamic Law is that it is forbidden to consume part of an animal that has been cut off without slaughtering it. So if the leg of a living cow is cut off, it is impure and unlawful to eat. However, extracting cells from a living animal to grow those cells into meat is not the same at all as this example. Extracting milk from a living animal, for example, is not prohibited. The cells are neither classified as meat nor milk, so neither of these precedents directly apply to the example of cultured meat.
The fourth objection is when the cells are extracted from a dead (incorrectly slaughtered) animal. This is based on the idea that the animal is not lawful to eat since it was not slaughtered properly. Deriving cells from it that will be used to produce meat should follow the same rule as the meat itself. Even though the extracted cells do not fall exactly into that category, it is better and safer for Muslims to advocate for the production of cultured meat through cells extracted from a living animal or one that has been slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines.
The fifth objection is that producing such “lab grown” meat is an attempt to change the natural things that Allah created for us. It is true that this is not from the ‘natural’ food that Allah created and therefore should fall in the same ruling as GMOs and highly processed foods. They are not prohibited per se but should be avoided to the extent that it is known they are harmful. Since cultured meat is a new invention, the permissibility of eating such meat will ultimately depend on 1) the probability of harm from eating this meat 2) the amount of harm and 3) the amount of benefit, or potential benefit, relative to the harm.
The primary benefits listed by proponents of such meat is to reduce the environmental impact of meat production and improve animal welfare. It will also result in cheaper production of meat and therefore more profits for businesses. Another benefit listed by proponents is that cultured meat may not require artificial growth hormones or antibiotics to produce. The health effects of these two agents in standard meat has been shown to be clearly detrimental to health, in general. The harms resulting from such cultured meat are unknown and may only manifest after many years of research. A further argument by opponents of cultured meat is that it is artificial, and is not true meat, even though it contains elements of animals such as muscle cells, fat and support cells, and blood vessels. In the absence of known harm, you may consume such foods in moderate amounts, but be very careful because such “unnatural” food may prove to be harmful when more research is conducted.
Certainty Level: 3 (out of 5) What is this?
Shaykh Mustafa Umar