Served up on a massive plate of spaghetti or atop a giant sub sandwich, this mammoth meatball is admittedly impressive.
In the name of science and environmental protection, an Australian cultivated meat company has resurrected the flesh of the long-extinct woolly mammoth. Using advanced molecular engineering, the lab-grown mammoth cells were developed to advertise the possibilities of slaughter-free meat consumption that does not require large-scale livestock production.
Vow, a company creating real meat from animal cells in a lab setting, developed the prehistoric meatball using the soft tissue obtained from mammoth remains. The DNA collected from the mammoth’s myoglobin, the protein that often gives meat its flavour, was spliced with pieces of DNA from a modern-day African elephant, the species’ closest living relative. The result: one big meatball.
Scientists only need one almond-sized piece of animal tissue to recreate billions of cells indefinitely, which form together to make expanses of muscle.
There are numerous companies already working to cultivate more traditional proteins like chicken, beef and fish, but Vow’s CEO, George Peppou, told The Guardian the company chose to invent the new meat as a means to persuade meat-eaters to stop eating conventionally raised animal protein.
“We have a behaviour change problem when it comes to meat consumption,” he told the outlet.
Food production accounts for 35 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Of that, nearly 60 per cent is derived from livestock production alone. Some scientific studies claim as much as a 90 per cent reduction of beef consumption in Western countries is necessary to combat climate change.
The development of the woolly mammoth meatball begs one question: what does it taste like? Unfortunately, no one knows. Since mammoth meat has not been consumed by humans for thousands of years, scientists can’t be sure how someone’s immune system would react to the protein.
The mammoth meatball is a clear promotional tactic for Vow, which raised US$49.2 million in funding last year. The company does not have plans to actually sell mammoth meat.
The Vow team told Good Morning Britain that it chose mammoth meat over other extinct animals like the dodo bird simply because there was more genetic information available to scientists. Even collagen-based food offerings made from the DNA of a tyrannosaurus rex could one day be created, the company claimed.
Do you fancy a mammoth meatball for your breakfast this morning? 🦣
The Mammoth Meatball, is the world’s first meat created from the cells of the extinct Woolly Mammoth – a protein that hasn’t been seen on the planet for 5000 years.
Could T-Rex treats be next? pic.twitter.com/g3pg7QogOP
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 28, 2023
The company also reportedly has the capacity to cultivate meat from alpaca, buffalo, peacock and kangaroo, among other species.
While you won’t see any mammoth meatballs in your local grocery store, Vow is already launching lab-grown quail meat in restaurants in Singapore this year.
The woolly mammoth meatball will be officially unveiled Tuesday at the Nemo science museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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