Lekker? Giant meatball from extinct woolly mammoth unveiled in Amsterdam

The Dutch capital is known for introducing new forward-thinking ideas to the world and today is just another example. You can now go see a giant meatball cultivated out of lab-grown woolly mammoth meat at the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam

Food scientists at the Australian cultivated meat firm, Vow, have grown meat from the proteins of an extinct woolly mammoth. And guess what they did with it? They cooked it into a huge meatball of course!

Did you say mammoth meat?

Yes, we did. Vow says that they chose mammoth meat specifically for this lab-grown meat experiment as a symbol of the loss caused by climate change, AFP reports. 

On their website, Vow writes that “The mammoth is a gigantic symbol of loss. We hope our meatball will resurrect conversations about meat and climate change.” 

READ MORE | 17 ideas that make the Dutch sustainability super-heroes

Although it does sound a little wacky, Vow says that the lab-grown protein from the extinct animal also illustrates the way for future foods. 

“We chose to make a mammoth meatball to draw attention to the fact that the future of food can be better and more sustainable,” Noakesmith tells AFP.

Is that… safe?

For now, we suggest you don’t dig in. 

At Nemo, guests will be able to look but not touch. Getting a taste yourself will have to wait a little longer as more testing is needed to make sure that the thousands-of-years-old-but-new meat is completely safe for us to eat.

Although Vow’s chief scientific officer, James Ryan, doesn’t seem too worried telling AFP that “It smelt a bit like when we cook our crocodile meat.” Lekker.

READ MORE | Dutch company will be the first in the world to sell lab-grown meat

Expert in alternative proteins, Christopher Bryant, tells AFP that lab-grown meat is a safe alternative as it avoids the usual pathogens, antibiotics, and other contaminants often found in conventional meat.

“Unlike conventional meat, which comes from dirty and unpredictable animals, cultivated meat is produced with extreme precision in sanitised food production facilities,” Bryant tells AFP.

How was the meatball made?

The food scientists grew the proteins that make up the meat over multiple weeks and completed them with genes from the mammoth’s closest relative, the African elephant, in order for the scientists to then cultivate the meat.

To give an idea of how massive this meatball is, it had to be browned on the outside with a blowtorch after being slow-cooked in an oven. 

Is it time to ditch conventional meat?

Lab-grown meat is a promising solution. Global meat consumption has almost doubled since the 1960s, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. 

Global farming of animals makes up 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, playing a big role in climate change already affecting millions of people worldwide. Meaning alternative methods such as this could greatly help prevent further emissions. 

Not quite ready for mammoth meat? That’s fair. Maybe it’s time to try out vegan bitterballen?

What do you think about lab-grown meat? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image:Aico Lind
Naomi Lamaury
Naomi Lamaury
Naomi came to the Netherlands four years ago for her studies with two suitcases and without ever having been to the country or knowing much about it. Now, you can find her eating ‘bitterballen’ and fighting against the Dutch wind on her bike every day like a local. Naomi enjoys writing about what is going on around her alongside a warm cup of coffee.


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