Modern Meadow grows real leather in a lab
Modern meadow is a biotech company using skin cells to grow real leather without harming animals. The result is a revolutionary product that can be used for everything from jackets to shoes.
The leather industry is incredibly cruel to humans and animals, and has a devastating impact on the environment. There are already a lot of wonderful vegan alternatives to leather products. You can even buy designer handbags made from leather alternatives.
But leather is still quite popular. Many luxury customers aren’t ready to make the switch to vegan products, and few high-end companies are dedicated to pursuing alternatives (Stella McCartney is a notable exception).
Modern Meadow is one company that would like to change the leather industry as we know it. Armed with over $40 million in venture capital, they are attempting to reimagine the leather industry.
The biofabrication method that Modern Meadow is pursuing creates pure collagen. The material still needs to be tanned, but it’s free from the fat, hair and other substances that make leather so wasteful (not to mention cruel!).
In 2013, it took Modern Meadow months to produce a strip of leather. It now takes a few weeks, and the process will only get faster as time goes on.
Benefits and drawbacks of lab-created leather
Lab-created leather produces less waste than traditional leather and remains is biodegradable and breathable. Of course, we’re still a long way from a viable commercial product for the mass market.
It also remains to be seen if lab-created leather will be more or less environmentally friendly than other alternatives, such as polyurethane. This will depend on the amount of energy required in order to produce it.
I’m uncomfortable with the fact that lab-created leather will still require tanning. The chemicals used in the tanning process, including chromium, are toxic to humans and the environment. It would be great if we could figure out a new tanning process while we’re at it.
Still, I’m happy to see technology companies taking the problem of leather production seriously, and making inroads to address it. Hopefully one day soon, the idea of using animal skins to produce textiles will be a distant memory.