Last August, one of PayPal’s co-founders, Peter Thiel, stated that his foundation, the Thiel Fellowship, would be funding Missouri-based start-up Modern Meadow’s efforts to produce in vitro meat and leather. Wait, what?
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m weirded out already. Although this process would bring no harm to any animals, the entire concept is just a bit too “outer limits” for me.
I would never eat meat, raised on a farm or created in a laboratory. On the other hand, the idea of cruelty free leather is interesting. I might be more inclined to wear leather that never actually came from animals. The idea is still pretty out there, but, supposedly, there will be no harm to animals and less environmental impact during the tanning process.
Modern Meadow cofounder and CEO, Andras Forgacs, spoke to Txchnologist, saying “Our emphasis first is not on meat, it’s on leather. The main reason is that, technically, skin is a simpler structure than meat, making it easier to produce.” He also notes that, “There’s much less controversy around using leather that doesn’t involve killing animals.”
Unfortunately, my scientific knowledge is not that extensive however, as I understand it, the process begins with harvesting livestock cells. Then, these cells are multiplied in a bioreactor, purified and fused together, possibly using 3-D bioprinting. The cells will then be allowed to mature to stimulate collagen production. (For a more detailed description, see here.)
Forgacs says that a full-scale leather facility could be mass producing hides in just five years. They will also be working on growing in vitro meat, but, because of regulatory approval, Modern Meadow doesn’t expect to break out into the meat market until 2022.
So, what do you guys think about this? Would you consider wearing cruelty-free leather, even if it’s still made out of animal skin? How do you think this new process will affect the idea of vegan fashion and veganism as a whole?