Mammoth in a museum© Unsplash

Scientists Have Made A Meatball Using Extinct Mammoth Meat

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

Some days it feels like people think Jurassic Park was just an extremely fun movie franchise and not an educational PSA on why we shouldn’t mess with extinct creatures.

Scientists from Australia’s cultivated meat company Vow have recreated the meat from a woolly mammoth, a creature that has been extinct for thousands of years.

Vow recently debuted the mammoth-sized mammoth meatball at the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam, with founder George Peppou confirming that recreating the mammoth meat was “no small undertaking”.

Scientists at the company explained that to cultivate the extinct mammal’s meat, they identified the gene sequence involved in a mammoth’s myoglobin, which is a protein found in the muscle cells.

“When it comes to meat, myoglobin is responsible for the aroma, the colour and the taste,” said James Ryall, Vow’s Chief Scientific Officer. He also said the whole process was very similar to what we saw in the first Jurassic Park movie which is comforting for no one.

To fill in the many gaps in the genetic code, they swapped in the gene sequences from the African elephant. Then the mammoth gene was implanted in the stem cells from sheep and the meatball was grown from there.

Mammoth meatball©Vow

Originally, the company wanted to create lab-grown dodo meat but wasn’t able to because the bird’s genetic information wasn’t available.

Mammoth meat, and subsequent meatballs, is not the only thing that the company is looking to do. They want to highlight the possibilities of cultured meat and are already looking into producing ‘meat’ from over 50 different species.

Coming back to the mammoth meatball in question, nobody knows how it tastes. Professor Ernst Wolvetang from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland. “We haven’t seen this protein for thousands of years,” said Professor Wolvetang, “So we have no idea how our immune system would react when we eat it.”

But if you’re still curious about what that would taste, or smell like, because time travel is not real and there’s no way for you actually travel back to the Ice Age to taste mammoth meat, it was reported that when the meatball was baked it smelled very close to what cooked crocodile meat does.

“(It’s) super fascinating to think that adding the protein from an animal that went extinct 4,000 years ago gave it a totally unique and new aroma, something we haven’t smelled as a population for a very long time,” said Vow co-founder Tim Noakesmith.

What do you think? Are we taking it too far?