Meatball from long-extinct mammoth created by food firm

Exclusive: Australian company resurrects flesh of lost species to demonstrate potential of meat grown from cells

From The Guardian: 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 project’s goal, according to the company, is to draw attention to the potential of cultured meat to make eating habits more planet friendly. On Tuesday, the meatball will join the collection at Rijksmuseum Boerhaave — a museum of science and medicine in the Netherlands. The mammoth meatball was produced by Vow, an Australian company, which is taking a different approach to cultured meat. “We need to start rethinking how we get our food. My biggest hope for this project is … that a lot more people across the world begin to hear about cultured meat,” said James Ryall, Vow’s chief scientific officer.

The mammoth meatball was produced by Vow, an Australian company, which is taking a different approach to cultured meat. Vow 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.

Vow 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 was to produce dodo meat, he said, but the DNA sequences needed do not exist.

Model mammoth on display in France.

Though our Stone Age ancestors hunted and presumably feasted on mammoth, Ryall and Wolvetang both said they had not tasted the meatballs. “Normally, we would taste our products and play around with them. But we were hesitant to immediately try and taste because we’re talking about a protein that hasn’t existed for 5,000 years. I’ve got no idea what the potential allergenicity might be of this particular protein,” Ryall said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re not offering this as a product. It’s not going to go up for sale, because we’ve got no idea about the safety profile of this particular product,” he added.

Advocates hope cultured meat will reduce the need to slaughter animals for food and help fight the climate crisis. The food system is responsible for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, most of which result from animal agriculture.

CNN and The Guardian