Why an Australian Tech Company Created the Mammoth Meatball
Asia/ Terra/ Sustainability

Australian Tech Company Vow Creates Meatball Using Extinct Mammoth DNA

Australian Tech Company Vow Creates Meatball Using Extinct Mammoth DNA Photo by Website/mammothmeatball.com

Australian cultivated meat firm Vow showcased a meatball composed of cells from the extinct woolly mammoth, announced at a press conference on Mar. 28 at the Nemo science museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The new meatball product aims to demonstrate the potential of cellular agriculture and provide a symbol of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Vow CEO George Peppou says the company aims to transition meat eaters to foods produced in electrified systems. He adds that the best way to do this is to "invent meat" by mixing and matching cells to create "really tasty meat".

Vow, along with Professor Ernst Wolvetang at the University of Queensland, created the lab-grown mammoth-meat product using DNA from mammoth myoglobin, a protein that gives the meat its unique flavour, and filled in missing gaps using elephant DNA. The sequence was then placed in stem cells from a sheep, which were replicated to grow 20 billion cells to create the mammoth meat.  

The mammoth muscle protein could offer promising opportunities for sustainable food production, as the company intends to eventually introduce it into the food market. The lab-grown meat industry has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years, with other companies also experimenting with different types of meat and cell cultures.

While most cultivated meat producers target meat such as chicken, beef and pork, Vow is exploring the potential of more than 50 less common species. These include alpaca, crocodile, peacocks and various types of fish.

Bas Korsten at Wunderman Thompson developed the idea after the team realised DNA was unavailable to replicate dodo meat. Mammoth meat was chosen symbolically, with Korsten stating, "our aim is to start a conversation about how we eat, and what the future alternatives can look and taste like".

Cultivated meat reduces water usage and uses no methane emissions. No authorities have yet tasted the mammoth meat, however.

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