Q&A: Can I have lab-grown meat during the fast?

Q: Is lab-grown meat acceptable during the fast? Is the “Beyond Burger” acceptable during the fast?


The absolute answer to the question is yes, you can. The answer to should you is not absolute.

Fasting is something that should have meaning. It should contain some level of abstinence, and then when the period of abstaining is done, we eat in a vegan way. The idea behind it is not about the purity or impurity of the food, but the spiritual dedication and program. There are some articles about the point of fasting and what it can look like here, or here or here.

For some people, having lab-grown meat is not very exciting or even tasty. For others, it’s the best thing that happened since ground beef. There’s a level of subjectivity involved in answering this question. For a parent who is trying to cook for the kids, find enough sources of protein and juggling a full-time job at the same time, having the fake burger might make a lot of sense. For someone who is a foodie, the fake meat may be a terrible idea.

The thing to aim for, is making sure that during your period of fasting, something is different. When you have vegan cheese, vegan shawarma, vegan sour cream and mayo, vegan everything…did you fast? Did you deny your will at all? Were you uncomfortable?

During a fast we consecrate more than our ordinary: time, space, food…everything. We set it apart. We do something special or reserved for God. When things are different, you benefit more.

I have a billion food restrictions because of some health issues that I have. Recently, I was on retreat at a monastery. It compelled me to eat the exact same thing for 33 days. Every day, I ate the exact same thing. I both hated and loved it. For the first two weeks it was a walk in the park. After that it was not on my mind. At the end of the month I was dying for something different. Yet, not thinking about food gave me time for other things. Eating light made me feel more energetic. Not spending a lot of time on food gave me the ability to put time into many other things. Health-wise, I was more alert, lost weight (a nice side effect), and felt awesome. Truthfully, I miss it already.

My norm is eating whenever I feel like it and whatever I’m in the mood to make. When that norm was changed, it brought my attention to different things – my way of dealing with things, the effect food has on my emotions, my time, my schedule, and my reactions to things. It brought my attention to books, writings, walking, exercising, interacting with people. It showed me how much time I spend on different things.

What I’ve listed may be superficial (sorry, not planning on getting super-personal on here!), but the point is that such a simple change provoked meditation and a deeper knowledge of self. Less time on food meant more time for something else. Less care for taste gave me more freedom from gluttony. What I’ve listed are not the only things that fasting does. I’m trying to make the point that it’s not about the kind of burger you eat and how much the ingredient list is kosher. It’s about how you are eating, how you are fasting, what you do in a fast, whether you know the point of the fast, and what you are doing to ensure that your fasting is beneficial.

So can you? Yeah. Should you? It depends.

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