AMSTERDAM — Throw another mammoth at the barbie?
An Australian company on Tuesday lifted the bell jar on a meatball made from lab-grown cultured meat using the genetic sequence of the long-extinct pachyderm, saying it was meant to stimulate public debate about the high-tech treat.
The launch at an Amsterdam science museum happened just days before April 1st, so there was a elephant in the room: is this real?
“This isn’t an April Fool’s joke,” said Tim Noakesmith, founder of Australian startup Vow. “This is a real innovation.”
Cultured meat – also known as cultured or cell meat – is made from animal cells. Livestock does not have to be killed to produce it, which advocates say is not only better for the animals but also for the environment.
Vow used publicly available mammoth genetic information, filled in missing pieces with genetic data from its closest living relative, the African elephant, and inserted it into a sheep cell, Noakesmith said. Given the right conditions in a lab, the cells multiplied until there were enough to roll into the meatballs.
More than 100 companies around the world are working on cultured meat products, many of them startups like Vow.
Experts say if the technology is widely adopted, it could significantly reduce the environmental impact of global meat production in the future. Billions of hectares of land are currently used for agriculture worldwide.
However, don’t expect this to end up on plates around the world any time soon. So far, tiny Singapore is the only country that has approved cell-based meat for consumption. Vow hopes to sell its first product there later this year – a cultured Japanese quail meat.
The mammoth meatball is a one-off and has not even been tasted by its creators, nor is commercial production planned. Instead, it was presented as a protein source that would get people talking about the future of meat.
“We wanted to inspire people that the future of food might be different than what we had before. That there are things that are unique and better than the meat that we’re dying to eat right now, and we thought the mammoth would start a conversation and get people excited about this new future,” Noakesmith told The Associated Press.
“But the woolly mammoth was also traditionally a symbol of loss. We now know that it died as a result of climate change. And so we wanted to see if we could create something that’s a symbol of a more exciting future that’s not only better for us, but also better for the planet,” he added.
Seren Kell, science and technology manager at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes plant-based and cell-based alternatives to animal products, said he hopes the project will “open new conversations about the extraordinary potential of cultured meat to create more sustainable food and… will reduce the climate impact of our existing food system and free up land for less intensive agricultural practices.”
He said the mammoth project, with its unconventional gene source, is an outlier in the emerging meat farming sector, which is typically focused on traditional livestock — cattle, pigs and poultry.
“By growing beef, pork, chicken and seafood, we can have the greatest impact in reducing emissions from conventional livestock farming and meeting the growing global demand for meat while meeting our climate goals,” he said.
The jumbo meatball on display in Amsterdam – somewhere between a softball and a volleyball in size – was for show only and had been glazed to ensure it was not damaged on its journey from Sydney.
But when it was prepared – first slow-baked and then finished on the outside with a blowtorch – it smelled nice.
“People who were there said the aroma was something similar to another prototype we’ve produced before, which is Krokodil,” Noakesmith said. “So it’s super intriguing to imagine that adding the protein of an animal that went extinct 4,000 years ago gave it a completely unique and new aroma, something that we as a population haven’t smelled in a very long time.”
Associated Press reporter Laura Ungar contributed from Louisville, Kentucky.
https://6abc.com/woolly-mammoth-meatball-lab-grown-meat-dna/13037679/ Australian company makes inedible lab-grown mammoth meatball