An Australian cultured meat start-up has harnessed woolly mammoth DNA to grow a sustainable meatball that’s light on the planet. Olivia Palamountain reports

Ever imagined coming face to face with a woolly mammoth? Well, now you can – in the form of a volleyball-sized meatball.

Australian cultured meat start-up, Vow, has created a giant orb of lab-grown meat, produced with a DNA sequence from the fabled animal eaten by people in the Stone Age (great for people on the Paleo diet).

If that sounds like something you’d like to eat: bad news. The meatball is an experiment designed to highlight the environmental impacts of standard agricultural practices and present cultured meat as a viable option for food production in the future.Mammoth meatballUnveiled at the Nemo science museum in Amsterdam, the meatball was cooked with a blow torch in front of an audience. Although no one tasted it, they reported it as smelling like crocodile meat.

“We wanted to get people excited about the future of food being different to potentially what we had before,” Tim Noakesmith, a co-founder of Vow told Mike Corder of the Associated Press (AP).

“We thought the mammoth would be a conversation starter. What we wanted to do was see if we could create something that was a symbol of a more exciting future that’s not only better for us, but also better for the planet.”Mammoth meatballAccording to The Guardian, the company has already investigated the potential of more than 50 species, including alpaca, buffalo, crocodile, kangaroo, peacocks and different types of fish. The first cultivated meat to be sold to diners will be Japanese quail, which the company expects will be in restaurants in Singapore this year.

Not the first time Globetrender has reported on lab-grown meats, the woolly mammoth meatball joins the likes of cultured salmon from Californian start-up Wildtype and cultured chicken on the menu at The Chicken restaurant in Tel Aviv.

San Francisco-based Air Protein has even made a meat substitute from elements found in the air.

Seren Kell, science and technology manager at the nonprofit Good Food Institute, which promotes alternatives to animal products, told the Guardian’s Damian Carrington she hopes the mammoth meatball “will open up new conversations about cultivated meat’s extraordinary potential to produce more sustainable food”.

According to The Smithsonian, woolly mammoths roamed across Eurasia and North America from 700,000 years ago to 4,000 years ago.

Following the last Ice Age, the species was driven to extinction, perhaps from a combination of human hunting and changes in the climate.