Preserving the Environment

This Startup is Producing Beef and Leather Without Harming a Single Cow

June 23, 2014
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This Startup is Producing Beef and Leather Without Harming a Single Cow
What if you could still eat beef and use leather without harming a cow? Sounds crazy but one start-up is trying just that. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Imagine eating steak — without a side of guilt.

It’s a problem any socially conscious meat-lover has — that delicious slab of beef we sometimes call dinner was once a living, breathing, mooing animal. Not only that, but the meat industry is also incredibly harmful to the environment.

We previously reported that America’s love affair with meat is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — more than all forms of transportation combined. But what if a flavorful serving of protein were guilt-free?

MORE: Want to Help Save the Planet? Take This Pledge to Eat Less Meat

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Brooklyn, New York-based startup Modern Meadow Inc. can grow meat and leather in their lab — all without killing a single animal. The company uses 3-D printers (check out the process in the video below) and a process called “biofabrication” to produce meat and leather in the lab with cells taken from animals via a noninvasive biopsy.

And while large-scale production of meat is a ways off, printing leather is already a reality. According to 3Dprint.com, it takes Modern Meadow about 45 days to create one square foot of leather, versus the two-to-three years it takes to raise, feed and shelter an animal.

Sounds like a noble mission to us. After all, the $91.2 billion global leather industry doesn’t just mean a lot of dead animals; its chemical-based dyes, acids, and treatments can be a health hazard and an environmental nightmare, too.

ALSO: In Vermont, These Adorable Animals Give Some New Americans the Taste of Home

Modern Meadow CEO and founder Andras told the WSJ that his company is trying to make its leather as affordable as what’s already available on the market, but at even higher quality (no nicks and scars). He’s also finding ways to process the man-made leather without using water and chemicals.

“With the livestock industry being the largest user of land and water and the leading driver of climate change, now is the time to pursue better alternatives,” Forgacs said in a press release. “Our goal is to develop new cultured leather materials with advantages in design, performance, sustainability, and animal welfare. In the longer term, we are also developing meat products that are healthier, safer, and don’t require harming animals or the environment.”

This all sounds pretty sci-fi, huh? While we probably won’t see lab-grown meat sold alongside flank steak at the local butcher anytime soon, it appears the company’s vision is getting closer to reality. Modern Meadow recently received a huge $10 million investment from Hong Kong billionaire investor Li Ka-shing that will help accelerate research and development and expand its facilities.

Would you buy lab-grown meat or leather?

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DON’T MISS: Meet the Brilliant Team of Scientists Taking 3-D Printing to Heart

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