On this week’s edition of “did we really need to do that,” scientists in Australia have created a meatball out of the flesh of the extinct woolly mammoth. I, for one, have never had the urge to resurrect the meat of a long-extinct creature in a lab simply to turn it into a meatball, but that urge was there for scientists at the food company Vow

What's Vow?

Vow is an Australian-based startup that focuses on creating cultivated meats, which are genuine animal products, but instead of coming directly from a living animal, they’re created in a lab using animal cells. In theory, this science, if widely adopted, would eliminate the need for raising and farming livestock for food, making it a much more sustainable option. Since scientist Mark Post first revealed this technology in 2013, the industry has grown massively — companies like Vow are popping up all over the world. Vow calls themselves the “rebels of food” and say their purpose is to “produce meat that is tastier, more nutritious, more sustainable, and ultimately more affordable than what we eat today.”

Wait, can we talk about the mammoth meatball again?

Okay, now back to the meatball. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how they created this thing, but according to The Guardian, Vow worked closely with Professor Ersnt Wolvetang at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Queensland. Wolvetang and Vow’s team of scientists used the DNA sequence for mammoth myoglobin — a type of muscle protein — and then filled in any gaps that existed using elephant DNA. The team then placed the new sequence of DNA into the myoblast cells of a sheep (the precursors to muscle cells), which then replicated to produce the mammoth meat. 

So, what does the mammoth meatball taste like?

So, they made a meatball out of mammoth meat, someone must have tried it right? Wrong — it seems everyone involved is a little hesitant to actually eat their mammoth creation. “We haven’t seen this protein for thousands of years, so we have no idea how our immune system would react when we ate it,” Wolvetang told The Guardian. I think I’m with everyone involved when I say I’ll pass on trying it too.

Why did they make a mammoth meatball?

If no one wants to try the meatball, what was the point of creating it? According to Vow, the mammoth cells were chosen because “the mammoth is a gigantic symbol of loss. We hope our meatball will resurrect conversations about meat and climate change.” Animal products like meat and dairy have been proven to have a negative impact on our environment, so this mammoth meatball is one step closer to making sustainable meats a bigger part of how we can reduce our impact on the planet. Vow justifies their work, writing that “feeding ten billion people becomes reality. Fast.” and that “Mother Earth gets some much-needed R&R.”

So although eating the mammoth meatball isn’t a reality right now, we could all be eating mammoth meatballs in the future with the goal of a more sustainable lifestyle in mind. For now, the meatball is housed at the Nemo Science Museum in the Netherlands.