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Israel's Netanyahu calls domestic rise of lab meat part of 'global revolution'

Investment in lab-grown meat and other plant-based proteins is taking off in Israel, which has a relatively large vegetarian and vegan population.
JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited an Israeli food tech company on Wednesday to sample its lab-grown meat and express Israel's strong interest in alternative meat and protein.

Steakholder Foods, a startup in central Israel's Rehovot, hosted Netanyahu along with other Israeli tech and health officials. The company 3D-printed cultured fish and meat for the prime minister.

“Today we ate fish that was produced without fish and meat that was produced without cattle,” said Netanyahu, according to a statement from his office. “This is a global revolution.”

Background: Steakholder Foods uses cells from animals to produce lab-grown meat using 3D-printing technology.

Why it matters: Investment in Israeli food tech doubled in the first half of 2022, and companies working on alternative meat are particularly taking off. In January, Steakholder Foods received a $1 million grant from the Israel Innovation Authority to work with Singapore’s Umami Foods on 3D-printed eel and grouper fish. Singapore is notably the only country in the world that allows the commercial sale of lab-grown meat.

Netanyahu has long been interested in food tech. In 2020, he visited Aleph Farms to observe their production of lab-grown beef.

Other Israeli companies are working on plant-based meat. Unlike lab-grown meat, it uses plant-based ingredients to create meat alternatives. Last year, the Israeli food tech startup Plantish unveiled its 3D-printed plant-based salmon.

Israel has one of the largest per capita populations of vegetarians in the world and more than 5% of Israelis are vegan. Tel Aviv in particular is sometimes dubbed the vegan capital of the world. The relatively high number of vegans and vegetarians in Tel Aviv is tied to the progressive culture in the city as well as rising concerns for animal welfare.

There is also a tradition of vegetarianism and veganism in Judaism.  Israel-based Rabbi Akiva Gersh frequently produces content on social media encouraging Jews to become vegan. Gersh often points out that Adam and Eve adhered to a vegan diet in the Garden of Eden.

Know more: The growth of alternative meat has sparked discussions on whether it adheres to Jewish and Islamic dietary laws. In 2021, the Jewish religious organization the Orthodox Union notably said it would not certify “Impossible Pork,” which is plant-based, as kosher. The Islamic Services of America made a similar determination the same year regarding halal products.

Eating pork is forbidden according to traditional interpretations of Jewish and Islamic law.

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