Imagine that all the cows on Earth gathered to form their own country. The newly created Republic of Cowtania would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, just behind the United States and China.
That’s because cows fart and poop. A lot. And bovine waste is rich with planet-warming methane and nitrous oxide.
In an effort to curb global greenhouse gas emissions, scientists and engineers are hard at work developing low-carbon versions of meat, milk and cowhide. Just this week, Brooklyn startup Modern Meadow wrangled $40 million in financing to fabricate leather. No cattle required.
To produce a hide, the firm collects collagen protein from genetically engineered animal cells. Collagen fibers can be arranged into a strong, supple material of any shape.
The process avoids waste, cruelty and dangerous carbon pollution. And, because lab-grown leather comes with none of the hair or fat found on animal hide, producers use fewer of the toxic chemicals needed to treat natural leather.
The firm’s CEO Andras Forgacs got into the business to produce lab-grown meat. But petri-dish dinners are still a long way off. For now, the company is focused on leather.
The firm will use its new funding to expand its lab and design studio and build its first factory. Owners expect the cost of their “biofabricated” material to compare with premium leather.