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Just how natural is your meat?

by Hannah Lynn Robinson



People seem to love what’s natural. It’s the best way to act, the best way to parent and the best way to eat—just as nature intended. But what exactly does natural mean, and is natural really always better?

Experts predict that by 2020, fake and lab grown meat will be even more prevalent in grocery stores and restaurants. With this sudden influx, questions about the meaning of natural are becoming increasingly urgent.

Alan Levinovitz, professor of religious studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, researches at the unique intersection between food and religion and is available to discuss the moral issues surrounding fake meat.

“As we struggle to live in harmony with the natural world, lab grown meat seems like a promising solution. Enthusiasts praise its low carbon footprint and the opportunity to shift away from factory farms,” says Levinovitz. “At the same time, there’s serious doubts. Can we really fix nature with something so…unnatural? Aren’t unnatural things bad?”

His research and writing use concepts taken from religious studies to analyze people's beliefs about non-religious topics, ranging from dietary practices to artificial intelligence. He works to provide students and readers with unfamiliar perspectives—discovering the subtle yet powerful role that the rhetoric of “natural” plays in the choices we make. 

“The future of fake meat isn’t just about technology, flavor and price. It depends on how we understand the meaning and value of eating “natural” food—a concept that appears scientific but is actually religious, complete with its own myths, rituals and laws.”

His newest book, Natural: How Faith in Nature's Goodness Leads To Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science—is scheduled for April 2020.

Levinovitz's work has been featured in major outlets including the Atlantic, The Washington Post, Vox, NPR, and Business Insider.

Media contact: Hannah Robinson,, 520-222-2808

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Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Last Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2021

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