Should I Eat ‘Impossible Meat’ During Lent?
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
Catholics 14 years of age and older are expected to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and on Fridays during Lent. As a result, Catholics have long substituted meat with foods like fish, eggs and cheeses for meals on these days.
In the last several years there’s been growth in the popularity of foods literally engineered to look, smell and taste like meat, but which are actually completely plant based. 
Even though meat “substitutes” have been around for some time, they’ve generally been easy to distinguish from actual meat. 
However, the latest generation of these foods are marketed as nearly indistinguishable from actual animal proteins like beef — even to the point of seeming to appear “bloody.” This is due to the meticulous engineering that went in to creating them — closely replicating meat at the molecular level so as to create the sensation of eating meat within our bodies and brains. 
It is a rather remarkable accomplishment to be sure, and companies such as “Impossible Burger” have now broken into the restaurant and fast food worlds with their products, thus making them more accessible than ever.
An obvious question, given these developments, is whether or not such a product should be seen as an acceptable alternative to eating meat on days of abstinence in Lent. 
From a technical standpoint the answer seems to be an obvious “yes.” After all, they contain no meat, therefore it can be eaten on days when meat is not permitted. 
However, this scenario also poses some interesting moral questions. 
For instance, is it an attempt to conform to the Lenten discipline legalistically, without actually having to experience any of the deprivation the sacrifice normally entails? If so, then does it pose a problem, not in its technical details, but rather in the internal disposition of the one who chooses it? 
Could it be likened to a Catholic who forgoes a hamburger on a Lenten Friday while instead indulging in an expensive lobster dinner? In some cases, I think the comparison is a fair one. 
Skipping a hamburger but splurging on lobster, misses the point altogether. 
Lent is a time for fasting and sacrifice, not a pathway or excuse for indulgence in any form. Following the “letter” while knowingly circumventing the “spirit” of the practice is not what Christians should be about. 
If we’re not careful, a certain loophole mentality can prevail which seeks to fulfill a religious practice superficially, but without the genuine disposition of heart which should be the motivation behind the practice in the first place. 
So what does this mean for the present case under consideration regarding engineered meat substitutes? Does it mean a Catholic can’t eat an “Impossible Burger” on a Friday during Lent? 
Not at all. Eating such a product isn’t the problem in and of itself — rather, there might be a problem with a person’s motivation in choosing to do so. 
In Catholic theology, one must look at both the act that is chosen (in this case eating a meat substitute on a Friday) and the intention of the person choosing it. 
A problem with either the act chosen or the motivation in choosing it, results in a morally problematic choice. 
If I’m choosing to do so as a way of following the “law” but without feeling like I’m sacrificing anything in the process, then there’s a problem. However, if I’m in a situation where I don’t have another reasonable alternative (barring skipping a meal altogether), then eating such a product doesn’t raise any real moral problems at all. 
Again, the real issue in such a case is not the eating of the meat substitute itself, but rather why one is choosing to do so. 
If someone wishes to steer clear of any and all potential moral questions posed by eating meat substitutes on Fridays, then waiting until Saturday to eat them might be the best bet.