Modern Meadow is a start-up company in New York that creates leather in a laboratory setting. There’s no animal to slaughter, no hair or fat to be removed and less need for all the harsh chemicals involved in the tanning process. This company biofabricates the leather in labs and foundries. Biofabrication involves manipulating cells to produce collagen and other proteins that make up a leather that is biologically identical to other leathers.
The process is rather scientific. They can recreate leathers from cows, pigs, sheep, goats, alligators, and even camels. The thickness and texture can be manipulated for the intended end use. Say you want a supple leather jacket that looks like deer hide. Or maybe you want a pair of wicked alligator boots. Modern Meadow can make the leather you need. Their products are aiming to fill the leather needs of the clothing, furniture, sporting goods and upholstery industry. I have a leather case for my tablet that I use to get on to play bingo.
Their other goal is to create these leathers in a more environmentally sustainable way. Animals will not be killed. The environment is less impacted and fewer chemicals are involved. Bioengineering the perfect leather for a specific product line leads to much less wasted materials and the ability to make products more exacting in form and function.
All in all, the concept of lab-created leather sounds remarkable in the environmental savings, and design aspect. The only concern is going to be the cost of the end product. Can the technology involved be scaled to a point where people can afford alternative leather goods or will this go on to be a niche product? Only time will tell.