Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
Find the whole concept of lab-grown meat terrifying? Well, how about lab-grown mammoth meat?
Yep, people have made a giant meatball out of an animal that doesn’t even exist any more, and it’s currently being displayed in a museum in the Netherlands.
What a time to be alive!
The meatball has been made by start-up, Vow, and they created it using genetic information from the mammoth, which has been extinct for over 4,000 years.
Cultured meat standardly uses cells taken from an animal that is living, and then uses nutrients to grow meat in a lab.
However, because the mammoth is extinct, experts had to take a different approach.
Speaking at a media event on Tuesday, they said they used their knowledge of the animal’s genetic sequence and then filled gaps using data from the African elephant, which is the closest relative to a mammoth still living.
They inserted the mammoth genes into a sheep cell and overexpressed it so it would turn out more like a mammoth than a sheep.
The end result certainly looks like a meatball, but the start-up says that nobody has actually sampled the mammoth meat.
“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 we would want to put it through seriously rigorous testing, like we do with any product that we want to bring to market. And for this purpose we wanted to present it to the world faster and not necessarily bring it immediately to market.”
The company said that it wasn’t suggesting people eat mammoth meat but instead picked the meat from the extinct animal to spark a conversation.
“Because with new technology it means that the food that we can have doesn’t have to replicate what we’ve had before,” he added.
“It can be more exciting, it can have better flavour profiles, better nutrition profiles. And so we wanted to create something that was totally different from anything you can get now.”
Vow is joining a number of companies jumping on the lab-grown meat bandwagon. In fact, it’s all the rage at the moment.
Last November, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that cell-cultured chicken was safe for human consumption, after “careful evaluation”.
Plus, in 2020, Singapore gave regulatory approval for lab-grown chicken meat to be used in nuggets.
Whilst lab-grown meat could be an exciting move for the environment, the new move has upset some people, including Italy’s government, who recently suggested a ban in order to protect food heritage.