Now, I like me a bit of Italian food, but what Australian startup Vow served up at a science museum in Amsterdam this week is a tall order! The company unveiled a mammoth meatball—in the sense that, yes, it was enormous, but it was also literally made out of mammoth. Vow is one of many companies that are throwing their weight behind cultivated meat: that is, meat that is vat-grown, from starter cells harvested from living animals. This means less cruelty and environmental impact end up on your plate.
The woolly mammoth is clearly extinct, but the cell harvesting and growing worked much the same way.
“Vow used publicly available genetic information from the mammoth, filled missing parts with genetic data from its closest living relative, the African elephant, and inserted it into a sheep cell, [Vow’s founder Tim] Noakesmith said. Given the right conditions in a lab, the cells multiplied until there were enough to roll up into the meatball. […]
The mammoth meatball is a one-off and has not been tasted, even by its creators, nor is it planned to be put into commercial production. Instead, it was presented as a source of protein that would get people talking about the future of meat. […]”
‘[The woolly mammoth has been traditionally a symbol of loss. We know now that it died from climate change. And so what we wanted to do was see if we could create something that was a symbol of a more exciting future that’s not only better for us, but also better for the planet,’ [Noakesmith] added.”
The huge sphere of meat was unfortunately not edible—a combination of being glazed before being shipped from Sydney to Amsterdam, and the fact only Singapore has okayed the human consumption of cultivated meat. But, the creators report that, while they were cooking the meatball, the aroma that filled the test kitchen was delicious, and similar to another unusual meat: crocodile. Hopefully, eaters will follow their taste buds to a new (old!) protein source, and the market for a more ethical meat will follow!