Flickr / Stewart Butterfield
The subject of the book? Clean meat, obviously.

Culture Environment Ideas News

The first-ever book bound in lab-grown leather is now available on eBay starting at a cool $10,000.

Fittingly, the book was written by author Paul Shapiro, former vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. It’s about “clean meat,” the author’s term for protein grown in a test tube. He commissioned a single leather-bound volume from startup Geltor—which claims to be the first to produce animal-free gelatin at industrial scale—to celebrate (and help promote) its release. The one-and-only copy for sale is signed by the author.

Lorestani says a casual observer would be hard-pressed to distinguish the cultured leather-bound book from its cowhide counterparts.
But this book isn’t bound in the bovine-derived fleshless-flesh that’s recently made its way out of the lab and into the limelight, most notably in the fall of 2017 when Modern Meadow introduced its “biofabricated” leather at a pop-up in Manhattan’s SoHo district. Rather, this leather is fashioned from jellyfish collagen, a decision Geltor co-founder Alexander Lorestani says was based on a variety of factors, including the stability and longevity of the final product. “We’re not beholden to using cow material or whatever the abundant source is,” he says. “We wanted to work with the thing that we identified as being right for this.”

Lorestani’s team used fermentation to produce collagen, which they purified and formed into sheets. “I remember the first time I showed it to Paul [Shapiro], we were in a teahouse in Berkeley. I felt like I was pulling a piece of flesh out of my backpack,” he says. “It’s actually kind of shocking when you see it.”

Once the raw “hide” is produced, it’s tanned and trimmed. Lorestani says a casual observer would be hard-pressed to distinguish the cultured leather-bound book from its cowhide counterparts: it looks and smells like the real deal, and he expects it’s durable enough to last for generations.

Geltor also manufactures collagen for the cosmetics industry, and Lorestani says he’s more interested in inventing materials that feel new and novel than perfecting a dupe for traditional leather. New Jersey-based Modern Meadow, which was the subject of an Atlantic profile in the fall of 2017, markets itself in a similar way. It’s reimagining, not reinventing. So far, that’s meant marbling black and white leather onto wool, “impossibly thin” leather sprayed onto silk, and leather lace.

The sole copy of Geltor’s leatherbound book is available on Ebay until next Monday. It currently has a single bid from an anonymous collector for $10,000. Hard copies of Shapiro’s Clean Meat: How Growing Meat without Animals will Revolutionize Dinner and the World are available all over the internet. They’re meatless, too.

H. Claire Brown

Claire Brown is a staff writer for the New Food Economy focusing on food policy and the environment. Her reporting has won awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York and the New York Press Club. She is based in Brooklyn. She can be reached via email at claire.brown@newfoodeconomy.org or on Twitter at @hclaire_brown.

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