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Modern Meadow, a US based tissue engineering company is aiming to produce cultured meat and leather. The website suggests they make 3D printed meat (whatever that is?). Synthetic or cultured meat and leather - is this our future?
Such materials might be suitable and look good on Lady Gaga as a dress but is it likely to be become a significant element in our leather industry? The objectives for creating engineered leather impersonating materials are sound with arguments such as: avoiding the animal stage avoids the requirement for high land and water resources; – it would also avoid the live animal emissions of methane – a major by-product of animal production. So the objectives are sound but the actuality?
Leather users are already buying and using significant quantities of non-leather materials such as “synthetic leather” (or PVC/PU coated materials as I know them). There is also a raft of materials made from leather waste, ground up and “coated” on the back of a woven inner layer and then finished to look like leather (well to look like coated leather). There are materials in China that are made from leather scrap – small pieces of scrap are stuck on the back of woven materials and again finished on the outer face to look like leather. All of these are made to simulate the leather look, so that they can be leather substitutes and are then used as low cost materials in the continuing drive to push down costs. Needless to say none of these are leather and the leather sector should not sit back and allow the word leather to be used in the description of any such materials.
Leather is leather
Leather is leather (as the live animal created the material in its fibrous nature to protect itself in life) and it is in our best interests to maintain the word leather solely as the name for the unique material we convert from hide and skin ie into leather.
These other leather imposter materials, whether they be reconstituted from our waste or synthesised/cultured may well have a place in the future, they may well reduce animal environmental impact and come on a roll in any colour or quantity you want. But they are not leather and cannot use the word “leather” in their description.