Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn startup founded in 2011, might be able to achieve the impossible: make leather goods that even PETA approves of. The company has secured US$53.5 million in funding for their plan of growing leather in labs, not from livestock.
Cows the world over, rejoice! This animal-free method for leather production could mean an end to the slaughter of countless beasts, and that's not all. The method removes the need for the highly-pollutant processes needed to clean, cure and tan leather obtained from traditional sources. Biofabricating the material allows Modern Meadow to "design, grew, and assemble collagen" and proteins into a type of leather that has all the pros and none of the cons of animal leather. The material is biologically identical to the traditional one, sans the elements that require toxic processing to get rid of.
"We’re making a material that has no hair flesh or fat on it. So the liming and toxicity you see elsewhere in the leather trade is eliminated," said Andras Forgacs, COE and co-founder of Modern Meadow.
Because the whole process takes place in the lab under precise control the company can supply designers with leather of specific characteristics, so they aren't limited to naturally available materials any longer. Forgacs believes that along with their cruelty-free model, this flexibility will help the company become the world's go-to source of leather.
The company is also producing meat in its labs (which might actually be better for you than the real thing,) and Forgacs is a firm believer that this is a much more civilized source than the slaughtering of animals.
Modern Meadow now plans to move from the research and development phase of the project into preparation for full-scale production. Their first goals are to set up a studio in New York and gearing their first factory for production.
The company now intends to move forward from the research and development phase of the project and expand in preparation for full-scale production. In the immediate future, this means setting up a studio in New York and readying its first factory.
Horizons Ventures' Bart Swanson, whose firm is one of the investors of Modern Meadow, believes that the company will secure its market share despite the higher cost of production compared to farms.
"It took us a long time to rid ourselves of total dependence on oil and carbon fuels, now renewable energy, LED lighting and electric vehicles have traction," he said.