A mammoth meatball has been created by a cultivated meat company, resurrecting the flesh of the long-extinct animals.
The project aims to demonstrate the potential of meat grown from cells, without the slaughter of animals, and to highlight the link between large-scale livestock production and the destruction of wildlife and the climate crisis.
The mammoth meatball was produced by Vow Food, an Australian company, which is taking a different approach to cultured meat.
There are scores of companies working on replacements for conventional meat, such as chicken, pork and beef. But Vow Foods is aiming to mix and match cells from unconventional species to create new kinds of meat.
The company has already investigated the potential of more than 50 species, including alpaca, buffalo, crocodile, kangaroo, peacocks and different types of fish.
The first cultivated meat to be sold to diners will be Japanese quail, which the company expects will be in restaurants in Singapore this year.
“We have a behaviour change problem when it comes to meat consumption,” said George Peppou, CEO of Vow Food.
“The goal is to transition a few billion meat eaters away from eating [conventional] animal protein to eating things that can be produced in electrified systems.
“And we believe the best way to do that is to invent meat. We look for cells that are easy to grow, really tasty and nutritious, and then mix and match those cells to create really tasty meat.”
Tim Noakesmith, who cofounded Vow Food with Peppou, said: “We chose the woolly mammoth because it’s a symbol of diversity loss and a symbol of climate change.” The creature is thought to have been driven to extinction by hunting by humans and the warming of the world after the last ice age.
Cultivated meat – chicken from Good Meat – is currently only sold to consumers in Singapore, but two companies have now passed an approval process in the US.
In 2018, another company used DNA from an extinct animal to create gummy bears made from gelatine from a mastodon, another elephant-like animal.
Vow Food worked with Prof Ernst Wolvetang, at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Queensland, to create the mammoth muscle protein. His team took the DNA sequence for mammoth myoglobin, a key muscle protein in giving meat its flavour, and filled in the few gaps using elephant DNA.
This sequence was placed in myoblast stem cells from a sheep, which replicated to grow to the 20bn cells subsequently used by the company to grow the mammoth meat.
“It was ridiculously easy and fast,” said Wolvetang. “We did this in a couple of weeks.” Initially, the idea was to produce dodo meat, he said, but the DNA sequences needed do not exist.
Seren Kell, at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “I hope this fascinating project will open up new conversations about cultivated meat’s extraordinary potential to produce more sustainable food.
“However, as the most common sources of meat are farm animals such as cattle, pigs, and poultry, most of the sustainable protein sector is focused on realistically replicating meat from these species.
“By cultivating beef, pork, chicken and seafood we can have the most impact in terms of reducing emissions from conventional animal agriculture.”
Source: Meatball from long-extinct mammoth created by food firm | Meat industry | The Guardian