Scientists grew extinct woolly mammoth flesh in a lab… to make a giant meatball

The idea of digging into a juicy mammoth meatball might not sound that terrible if we were alive over 10,000 years ago. But to think about biting into a juicy, prehistoric hunk of meat in the current day and age, I’ll admit it threw me off a bit this morning while reading about it. Of course, this special meatball wasn’t just made because the creators were hungry. Instead, the food farm responsible for it hoped to show how easy it is to grow meat from cells.

Australian-based food farm Vow is the company behind the recently created mammoth meatball. The company says that its goal is to “rewrite the rules of food with cultured meat.” The meatball is the company’s second big project, and it originally unveiled the creation earlier this month. Members of the company told The Guardian they chose the mammoth because it is a symbol of loss and diversity. 

Many believe the mammoth was driven to extinction due to being hunted by humanity. So, by showing that it is possible to use cells to create a mammoth meatball from ancient DNA, Vow hopes to showcase just how useful creating cultured meat could be. Not only would it allow us to cut down on hunting animals, but livestock and other creatures could be allowed to live free lives, unlike now, where many live just to be butchered. 

“We have a behavior change problem when it comes to meat consumption,” George Peppou, the CEO of Vow, told The Guardian. Peppou says the final goal is to move millions of conventional meat eaters away from standard animal proteins to cultured meat. By showing that it can even grow a mammoth meatball from ancient DNA, Vow has showcased how easy and possible it is to grow meat from cells. 

It really could change how we view the future of meat-based dishes, and choosing such an iconic animal to back up these pushes was a smart play – even if it is a little disconcerting to think about biting into a meatball made from cells older than anyone currently on Earth.  Other companies are also trying to revive the wooly mammoth, albeit in very different ways.

Still, I can’t help but think about animals like the red wolf, which have been hunted to extinction by humanity over the years. If creating a mammoth meatball is what it takes to open people’s eyes to how much damage we’re doing to the animal populations on our planet, then I have to applaud Vow for its ingenuous way of sending a message.

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