Is a mammoth burger really "more meaty" than a cow one?
Researchers at Australian cultivated meat company Vow recently cooked up a giant meatball made out of a substance that used genetic material from the ancient mammoth to, in theory, approximate its flesh.
And as it turns out, such a product might actually be pretty delicious. Nobody ate the Vow meatball, but a Belgian competitor called Paleo is also experimenting with mammoth protein and says it's cooked up a plant-based burger injected with mammoth myoglobin — the protein that gives meat its meaty flavor — which was actually quite tasty, Insider reports.
In fact, it may be even better than the bovine option.
"When the mammoth myoglobin is added instead, it tastes even more intense — more meaty," Paleo CEO and founder Hermes Sanctorum told Insider, comparing the substance to cow myoglobin. "And chemical analysis confirmed that more aromatic compounds associated with grilled meat are present than in the case of cow myoglobin."
But is it all just marketing fluff? Can different myoglobins really affect the flavor that much? After all, myoglobin, which tastes metallic due to iron atoms, only makes up a tiny percentage of the overall product.
And experts aren't entirely convinced.
"Fat and caramelization of proteins is usually what I think about as affecting the flavor of meat," University of Kentucky Animal and Food Science Extension professor Gregg Rentfrow told Insider.
Then there's the fact that Paleo might be trying to beat its competitor Vow to the punch. The two startups are caught up in a meatball dispute and are beefing — or, rather, mammothing — over who came up with their patent for a mammoth myoglobin first.
Vow says nobody actually ate its mammoth meatball over fears it could trigger an allergic reaction. But given Paleo's successful taste test, we might just be looking at a great meaty alternative to the real thing.
More on mammoth meat: Gene Hackers Create Meatball From Resurrected Mammoth Meat