An Australian startup has created a truly giant meatball.
Last Tuesday, Vow Food introduced a giant meatball made from the meat of the extinct woolly mammoth. The meatball was ceremoniously unveiled in Nemo, a science museum in the Netherlands.
— Science news from Reuters (@ReutersScience) March 29, 2023
“This isn’t an April 1 joke,” said Tim Noakesmith, founder of Australian startup Vow. “This is a real innovation.”
The meatball is made from sheep cells into which a mammoth gene called myoglobin has been inserted, with some African elephant added for good measure.
Vow’s Chief Scientific Officer James Ryall told Reuters that the process of making the giant meatball was “just like in the movie Jurassic Park”.
The only difference is that his lab didn’t make a real 13,200-pound animal.
Making a giant statement
But don’t expect to toss the giant meatball into a plate of pasta anytime soon. It’s not for eating.
“We haven’t seen this protein for thousands of years,” said Ernst Wolvetang of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Queensland, which helped create the mammoth muscle protein. “So we have no idea how our immune system would react if we eat it. But if we did it again, we could certainly do it in a way that would make it more palatable to regulatory authorities.”
The meatball’s big debut was more of a publicity stunt designed to show the potential of meat grown from cells without killing animals. Vow Foods also wanted to highlight the link between livestock farming and climate change.
“We wanted to get people excited that the future of food could be different than before,” Vow founder Tim Noakesmith told the Associated Press. “That there are things that are unique and better than the meat we’re necessarily eating right now, and we thought the mammoth would be a conversation starter and get people excited about this new future.”
While Vow’s mammoth meatballs aren’t edible (at least not yet), most cell-based or “cultured meat” is intended for human consumption as an alternative to conventional animal and plant-based meats.
Last year, the FDA approved meat made from cultured chicken cells.
And Vow experiments with more than 50 species, including buffalo, crocodiles and kangaroos.
According to Vow’s first lab-grown meat to be sold to the public, it will be Japanese quail The protector.