In recent years, leather has been making a comeback. Not just in fashion, but in many applications as a luxurious choice with natural benefits. Leather remains a popular car interior option, but it’s also a material under intense scrutiny. Critical consumers and negative campaigning from animal rights activists are the flip sides of the renewed love for leather. Though not always justified, there is one good reason for this critical view: transparency.
The leather industry, particularly the segment responsible for automotive leather, has been avidly working to clean up their act and establish quality levels on par with, or even above today’s standards. Yet, in the face of global demand for access to knowledge and insight into product origins, more transparency is required, particularly regarding the origin of leather and its place in the meat production supply chain as a by-product.
The whole animal
The global herd of animals for food production runs into billions. Not a surprising fact, since meat consumption is growing and has doubled in the last 50 years, even in the light of food and health trends. Leather has an obvious connection to the meat industry as it uses one of the leftovers. It’s not the only product. In fact, estimates are that 95% or more of the animal is used effectively. The hide is one of those leftovers, which is converted to leather.
Does this mean that leather production is simply using a by-product? As is often pointed out, the relationship is not that simple, but 100% of animals used for automotive leather are slaughtered primarily for meat consumption. That means dependency on the meat industry is a one-way street, particularly now more consumers eat meat, but avoid animal by-products. The result is a disproportionate amount of leftovers, which aren’t converted. In fact, when it concerns the leather industry, slaughterhouses are considering the economic benefits (lower costs) of simply turning hides to landfill. That would be a waste, as we know it’s possible to use almost the entire animal.
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