A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Growing Shoes in a Test Tube?

Several companies are already in a race to be the first to produce tasty meat grown in laboratories from cultured cells, not living animals. But one of them is trying to go a stage further and produce laboratory leather. [readon]

Modern Meadow is the brainchild of entrepreneur Andras Forgacs and billionaire tech-investor Peter Thiel, and it’s focusing on leather rather than meat because, as Forgacs explains it, skin is a simpler structure than meat.

Forgacs also believes that starting with leather will build more acceptance among the general public than launching with meat.

“Anecdotally we’ve found that around 40 percent of people would be willing to try cultured meat,” he told Txchnologist. “There’s much less controversy around using leather that doesn’t involve killing animals.”

A full-scale leather production facility, he believes, could be up and running in five years, while getting approval from the F.D.A. for the commercial production of burgers could take 10 years.

Last year, humans worldwide consumed 122 billion pounds of beef and veal, and 223 billion pounds of pork. On any given day there about roughly 1.5 billion cattle around the planet consuming enormous quantities of grass, corn and other foods, along with enormous quantities of a dwindling supply of fresh water in order to produce far less food for humans than would be needed if we were living off a plant-based died. It’s a huge burden on the planet.

By comparison, it’s estimated that cultured meat could require up to 45 percent less energy than raising animals for food, produce almost 50 percent fewer greenhouse gases, require 99 percent less land and 90 percent less water.

And the same applies to leather.

“We got into this for several reasons—because it’s possible, it’s new, it’s exciting and it’s important,” Forgacs said. “We love technological innovation and its ability to enable social benefit.”

Forgacs talks about it in this video: