Meatball Made With Wooly Mammoth DNA Created by Food Company
The concept of a “mammoth meatball” might conjure up an image of a gigantic meatball at a county fair, but Australian cultured meat company Vow Food — which cultivates meat from animal cells without the slaughter of animals — has produced a meatball that incorporates DNA from the extinct woolly mammoth.
The first-ever recreation of the flesh of the extinct creature is meant to show the potential of lab-grown meat, and to call attention to the large-scale raising and slaughter of livestock that is responsible for the destruction of forests and the wildlife and ecosystems that depend on them, reported The Guardian.
“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 Vow’s Chief Scientific Officer James Ryall, as CNN reported.
The 0.88-pound meatball isn’t actually intended to be eaten and only contains a small amount of woolly mammoth DNA. The scientists made a synthesized gene created from the DNA sequence of the woolly mammoth found in a genome database available to the public.
Gaps in the sequence were filled in with African elephant genome data, and the synthesized gene was grown in the muscle cell of a sheep.
“From a genomic point of view, it’s only one gene amongst all the other sheep genes that is mammoth. It’s one gene out of 25,000,” said Ernst Wolvetang, professor and senior group leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland, who was part of the project, as reported by CNN.
Vow has been looking at combining cells from species that aren’t commonly consumed, like crocodile, alpaca, peacock and kangaroo, to create different meat varieties, The Guardian reported.
Japanese quail will be the first type of cultured meat to be sold in restaurants and will be available in Singapore later this year.
“The goal is to transition a few billion meat eaters away from eating [conventional] animal protein to eating things that can be produced in electrified systems,” said Vow CEO George Peppou, as reported by The Guardian. “And we believe the best way to do that is to invent meat. We look for cells that are easy to grow, really tasty and nutritious, and then mix and match those cells to create really tasty meat.”
Raising livestock for meat production is believed to contribute as much as 14.5 percent of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, BBC News reported.
Cultured meat doesn’t produce any methane and uses much less water and land than raising livestock for slaughter.
“It’s a little bit strange and new — it’s always like that at first. But from an environmental and ethical point of view, I personally think [cultivated meat] makes a lot of sense,” said Wolvetang, as reported by The Guardian.
It is believed that planetary warming following the last ice age and hunting by humans drove the majestic mammoth to extinction.
“We chose the woolly mammoth because it’s a symbol of diversity loss and a symbol of climate change,” co-founder of Vow Food Tim Noakesmith told The Guardian.
Neither Wolvetang nor Ryall had tasted the meatball because of safety concerns.
“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, as The Guardian reported.
“[W]e have no idea how our immune system would react when we eat it,” Wolvetang said. “But if we did it again, we could certainly do it in a way that would make it more palatable to regulatory bodies.”
The mammoth meatball had its debut at the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam.
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