Resurrecting Lost Flavors: A Leap Towards Eco-Friendly Meat Substitutes
Pioneering Cell-Based Meat for a Greener Future
The project aims to highlight the promise of meat grown from cells without harming animals, drawing attention to the relationship between large-scale livestock farming, wildlife devastation, and the climate crisis.
Vow, an Australian company, is exploring a novel approach to cultured meat, researching over 50 species, including alpacas, buffalo, crocodiles, kangaroos, peacocks, and various fish. The firm intends to debut Japanese quail as their inaugural cultured meat offering in Singapore this year. CEO George Peppou explains that their goal is to encourage billions of meat-eaters to transition to eco-friendly protein alternatives by “reinventing meat.”
Woolly Mammoth: An Emblem of Biodiversity Loss and Climate Change
Co-founders Tim Noakesmith and George Peppou selected the extinct woolly mammoth as a symbol of biodiversity decline and climate change. The animal is believed to have vanished due to human hunting and global warming after the last Ice Age. Bas Korsten of Wunderman Thompson, the creative agency responsible for the concept, envisions cultured meat as “meat, but not as we know it.”
Cultured Meat: A Flavorful Improvement Over Plant-Based Substitutes
While plant-based alternatives have become widespread, cultured meat provides a closer approximation of conventional meat flavor. At present, Good Meat’s chicken is the sole cultured meat available to consumers in Singapore, but two US companies have also obtained approval. In 2018, another enterprise utilized DNA from an extinct animal to manufacture gummy bears containing gelatin from a mastodon, an elephant-like creature.
Crafting Mammoth Meat: Fusing Science and Culinary Expertise
Vow teamed up with Professor Ernst Wolvetang from the Australian Institute of Bioengineering at the University of Queensland to develop the mammoth muscle protein. The researchers employed the DNA sequence of mammoth myoglobin, filling gaps with elephant DNA. They then introduced this sequence into sheep myoblast stem cells, which multiplied into 20 billion cells that were used to cultivate mammoth meat. Wolvetang described the process as “ridiculously easy and fast.”
Taste Test: Uncharted Culinary and Immunological Territory
Since no living person has experienced mammoth meat, its impact on the human immune system is uncertain. Wolvetang concedes that initial reservations are understandable but argues that cultured meat is environmentally and ethically sound.
Environmental Advantages of Cultured Meat
Large-scale meat production, especially beef, inflicts considerable environmental harm. To address the climate crisis, affluent countries must decrease meat consumption. Cultured meat necessitates less land and water and produces no methane emissions. Vow exclusively utilizes renewable energy sources and avoids using fetal bovine serum in its commercial products. The company has secured $56 million (£46 million) in investments so far.
Sustainable Protein’s Future: Merging Human Stem Cell Research and Cultured Meat
Wolvetang foresees an increasing overlap between human stem cell research and cultured meat production. Cells can be programmed to develop muscle, fat, and connective tissue in response to their surroundings, potentially enabling the growth of specific meat cuts.