A meatball made from lab-grown mammoth flesh was revealed on Tuesday at a scientific exhibition in the Netherlands.
According to experts at the Australian firm Vow, which produced the meatball, the flesh was obtained using genetic material from a long-extinct mammoth. The genetic sequence of the nearest surviving cousin of the mammoth, the African elephant, was used to fill in some gaps.
Cells obtained from a living mammal are typically the first step in the production of cultured meat. These cells are then submerged in nutrients and grown into flesh in a laboratory.
According to Vow scientific director James Ryall, the mammoth DNA were introduced into a sheep cell, and the mammoth gene was then overexpressed to make it more common than the sheep gene in the finished result.
The meatball, however juicy, is not for eating. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t eat it, but because this protein is literally 4,000 years old, we haven’t seen it for a very, very long time,” Vow founder Tim Noakesmith said.
“It means that the food that we can have doesn’t have to replicate what we’ve had before,” Noakesmith added. “It can be more exciting, it can have better flavor profiles, better nutrition profiles. And so we wanted to create something that was totally different from anything you can get now.”
As of November 2021, more than 75 businesses worldwide are engaged in the development of lab-grown beef goods, according to the FAO. Proponents of lab-grown beef claim that it can reduce methane emissions and fight climate change.