A lot of things will change in the future. Cars will drive themselves. Motorcyclists won’t wear helmets (as we know them), and your leather jacket will be grown in a vat…at least, that’s what a new company named Modern Meadow hopes. Having just received $10 million in Series A funding, the New York-based company hopes to change the way we interact with our beloved bovines.
Getting its roots from the bio-technology sector’s research into “bioprinting” organs in a petri dish, Modern Meadow is looking for consumer-level applications to this still young technology, which right now focus on creating grown-in-the-laboratory beef and leather.
Obviously the FDA has a few things to say about creating food products from bioprinting, so Modern Meadow’s first foray will be into creating real leather with stem cells.
The implications for the leather industry are pretty powerful when you think about it, and all you have to do to see that is take a gander and fake leather industry to see the demand for a humane alternative to animal leather cultivation.
Bioprinting processes like the one from Modern Meadow have the potential to create higher quality leather hides at cheaper costs, while requiring fewer land, water, energy, and chemical demands. The concept can be taken a step further even, as genetic manipulation comes into play and brand-specific strains come into the mix.
Leather growers (let that phrase sink in for a moment) can optimize their crop for particular attributes and qualities (abrasion resistance being a highlight for motorcyclists), and there is no reason to think that the technology is limited to just cow hides. Horse, goat, and kangaroo leather could all become considerably cheaper than the premium they demand over their cow counterparts.
The pushback of course is pretty obvious: the idea of growing leather in a laboratory, and then wearing it, is a fairly creepy concept to wrap one’s mind around. We are already seeing pushback from consumers to genetically modified food products, and there is a host of legal and ethical issues being debated right now regarding the use of stem cells.
With a slew of other advancements coming from bio-tech firms that push the envelope of how we understand our world, the idea of vat-grown beef steak and leather products is just one more mind-blowing idea for us to digest.
But before you pass judgment, think about just how weird the concept of wearing a dead animal’s skin is, especially for our recreation.
Barring some sort of labeling requirement, we doubt consumers would notice the difference between the organic and bioprinted leather hides, which is probably the real issue.
Just as the diamond industry had an aneurism over flawless artificial rocks, we can see the companies and countries whose bottom line is dependent on the mark-up of leather being the most vocal about this technology.