America’s obsession with beef is killing the leather industry

America’s obsession with beef is killing the leather industry

The American leather industry is facing difficulties as excess animal hides are going unprocessed. The cause is partly due to diminished demand from fashion industries after prices soared several years ago. Yet the most significant cause, Bloomberg writes, is a surprising one: meat consumption in America.

Though some consumers are opting for dietary alternatives, the global taste for meat has not diminished in the slightest. As a result, the number of hides, which are the unavoidable by-product of the food industry, keeps growing and hide traders report that large numbers remain unsold and are going into landfills. This natural material, a long favorite for car interiors and fashion, is going to waste in favor of newly produced, non-sustainable synthetic fabrics, such as those found in the athleisure trend.

As leather prices plummet, the costs of upgrading imperfect, branded, or damaged hides are no longer affordable. Where these hides traditionally would be used for fashion items or small leather goods, the hides are now piling up and need to be processed as waste. There is still a demand for leather in high-end products, yet these industries opt only for the most perfect, high-quality hides. That type of leather requires animals to live in a protected environment to preserve the hides, and not free-range, where their hides often tell the stories of the animal's life.

Conscious consumers, in turn, are starting to opt for non-petrochemical materials, as they search for choices that lower the environmental impact. At the same time, the answer for a more sustainable material is buried in landfills.

Since the publication of this article, prices for hides have even dropped further. 

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