A cell-based meat company has revived the extinct woolly mammoth – in the form of a lab-grown meatball.
The woolly mammoth was chosen by Vow because the extinct mammal is a symbol of loss and climate change, explains a video released by the company.
The product was unveiled on Tuesday at Nemo, a science museum in the Netherlands. The “iconic” meatball was chosen because of its popularity around the world “for centuries,” Vow said.
“It’s an accessible dish, easy to make and affordable,”[ads1]; their website says. “Exactly what we hope to achieve for cultured meat products in the future.”
George Peppou, co-founder and CEO of Vow, wrote in a 2021 article that the food technology startup believes animals domesticated by our ancestors “are not the best possible meat we can produce with new technology.”
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According to the Guardian, Vow has used DNA from 50 animal species so far, including a variety of fish, alpaca, buffalo, crocodile, kangaroo and peacock, with energy from renewable sources.
Another goal, said Vow co-founder Tim Noakesmith, is to shift billions of meat-eaters away from traditional animal proteins to eating “cultured” cell-cultured meats that are flavorful and nutritious.
How was woolly mammoth meat made?
Scientists used a key protein that gives red meat its flavor, mammoth myoglobin, along with the DNA of the woolly mammoth’s closest living relative, an African elephant, to fill in missing sequences and create the mammoth muscle protein, according to researchers at Vow and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Queensland.
Working with creative agency Wunderman Thompson, Vow took the elephant and mammoth DNA sequences and placed them into stem cells from a sheep to replicate the cells used to grow “the world’s first meat made from the extinct woolly mammoth”.
More than 20 billion cells were used to create each meatball.
Can you eat it?
The mammoth meat ball is not ready for consumption, and no one has tasted it – yet, according to the company’s website.
“Since we are dealing with an extinct protein, it will take some time before we can guarantee that Mammoth meat is safe and wholesome,” the website says.
Cultured meat products can only be purchased and consumed in Singapore, the first country to approve cultured meat for commercial sale in 2020.
Around the world, legislation prohibits cultured meat products from being sold in supermarkets or restaurants, according to Vow.
This year, diners in Singapore will have the opportunity to try the first cultured meat sold in restaurants: a Japanese quail.
More coverage from USA TODAY
Camille Fine is a popular visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.
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