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The startup makes giant meatballs from lab-grown mammoth meat

A meatball made from lab-grown mammoth meat was unveiled at a science museum in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Vow, the startup that developed the meatball, developed it using genetic information from long-extinct mammoths, the company’s researchers said at a media event Tuesday. Some holes in the genetic sequence were filled in using data from the mammoth’s closest living relative: the African elephant.

The process of making cultured meat usually starts with cells taken from living animals. These cells are immersed in nutrients and turned into meat in a lab.

In this case, the mammoth genes were inserted into a sheep cell, James Rial, VA chief scientific officer, said at the unveiling. The mammoth gene was then overexpressed so it would be more prevalent in the final product than in sheep.

A mammoth meatball on display at the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam

A meatball made from cultured meat using the DNA of an extinct woolly mammoth is presented at the NEMO Science Museum by a cultured meat company on March 28, 2023 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Piroshka of the Wow/Reuters

No one has ever tasted mammoth meat, revealed Vow founder Tim Noakesmith.

“And that doesn’t mean you can’t eat it, but because this protein is literally 4,000 years old, we haven’t seen it in a long time,” Noacksmith said. “This means that we want to put it through seriously rigorous testing, as we do with any product we want to bring to market. And for this purpose we wanted to present it to the world quickly and not immediately bring it to market.”

While Vow isn’t promising the safety of mammoth meat, the startup chose meat from an extinct animal to get people talking, Noacksmith said.

“Because with new technology it means that the food we can eat doesn’t have to replicate what we had before,” Noacksmith said. “It could be more exciting, it could have a better flavor profile, a better nutritional profile. And so we wanted to create something that was completely different from what you can get now.”

Vow is one of several companies producing laboratory meat. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration cleared last week “Elements of cultured chicken cells“Made by Good Meat Co. as safe for human consumption. In November, it approved lab-raised chicken. Made by Upside Foods. Advocates of lab-grown meat say it could help reduce methane emissions and fight climate change.


Lab-raised chicken produced by GOOD Meat, which is owned by Eat Just, Inc.

Just Eat, Inc.

Cultured meats have been in development for years. World’s first Lab-grown burgers was consumed in 2013. The first cell-based chicken nuggets were approved in Singapore in December 2020.

In its 2022 report on the future of food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) noted that consumer demand for animal-based food products has increased.

“Intensification of animal production may conflict with sustainability objectives, leading to trade-offs in various environmental aspects, food security and animal welfare,” the report states. “New technology presents a possible alternative: large-scale farming and production of land and aquatic animals without the need for slaughter.”

More than 75 companies operating worldwide Developing lab-grown meat products By November 2021, according to FAO. Singapore is the only country that has allowed the sale of cultured meat.

In the United States, companies cleared by the FDA require approval from the US Department of Agriculture before selling their products. The USDA has not shared a timetable for when lab-grown meat products may be cleared for sale in the United States.

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Aliza Chasan

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