Australian cultured meat company Vow presented a giant meatball made from the DNA of an extinct woolly mammoth at the Nemo Science Museum in the Netherlands on Tuesday.
The meatball was made using sheep cells inserted with a woolly mammoth gene called myoglobin. The woolly mammoth was a species of prehistoric elephant that lived during the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to about 11,700 years ago.
These majestic animals roamed the Earth alongside early humans and other animals during the last Ice Age, and they were well-adapted to cold and harsh environments.
“We won’t eat the mammoth meatball right now. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t eat it, but because this protein is literally 4000 years old, we haven’t seen it for a very, very long time, it means that we would want to put it through seriously rigorous testing,” Vow founder Tim Noakesmith said.
By introducing the meatball to the public, the company hopes people learn about cultured meat, describing it as a more sustainable alternative to meat from slaughtered animals.
“There are two reasons why we chose a mammoth meatball. So the first one is that we wanted to get people talking. We wanted attention to something different from the meat we eat now. Because with new technology, it means that the food that we can have doesn’t have to replicate what we’ve had before. It can be more exciting, it can have better flavour profiles, better nutrition profiles,” Noakesmith said.
“The second reason is that the mammoth has traditionally been a symbol of loss. Mammoths we know now were wiped out because of climate change, and we wanted to draw attention to a different future, something more exciting, something where we can eat our way out of extinction,” he added.
The company hopes to put cultured meat on the map in the European Union, where such meat as food still needs to be regulated.