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This Woolly Mammoth Meatball Was Made Using the DNA of the Long-Extinct Animal

It isn't your nonna's meatball. It's not even your nonna's nonna's nonna's nonna's.

The Mammoth Meatball Aico Lind

There are few foods as comforting as spaghetti and meatballs. But one specific meatball isn’t meant to be comforting so much as it’s trying to be a conversation starter.

The experimental food brand Forged by Vow debuted on Tuesday the Mammoth Meatball, made from the DNA of the extinct woolly mammoth, Bloomberg reported. Despite the animal having been dead for some 4,000 years, the company was able to use its genetic material to create the cultured meat used in the food.

“Rather than simply replicating existing products, this technology offers us the opportunity to create something truly unique and better,” said James Ryall, the chief scientific officer at Vow.

To make the meatball, researchers isolated DNA in mammoths that gives flavor to red meat. Gaps were filled in with genetic material from an African elephant, the woolly mammoth’s closest living relative. The cultured meat was then grown in a lab from animal cells and shaped into the meatball form that we all know and love.

The Mammoth Meatball was gifted by the company to the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in the Netherlands, after being revealed at the Nemo Science Museum in Amsterdam. At the unveiling, Forged said it hopes the meatball will make people think about the climate damage caused by cows and other livestock, as beef is currently the most climate-intensive food. “The mammoth is a gigantic symbol of loss,” the company says on its website. “We hope our meatball will resurrect conversations about meat and climate change.”

Lab-grown meat is becoming more common, although it’s rare that we see it using material from extinct animals. Yet the Mammoth Meatball isn’t completely unique in that regard. In 2018, the start-up Geltor used DNA from the extinct mastodon to create a gelatin used in gummy bears, Bloomberg noted. And while the woolly mammoth meatball might be a one-off, at least for now, Vow is testing products using cells from untraditional living animals like crocodiles. Utilizing a wider array of species allows the company to select better for taste and nutrition, it says.

While we can’t vouch for the flavor of the Mammoth Meatball, it’s at least a change of pace from what you’d find at your standard red-sauce joint. At the same time, we all saw what noodling around with prehistoric DNA did in the movie Jurassic Park, so maybe the scientists ease up on that a bit.

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