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Hide Economics: Leather’s Status as a Byproduct
13 January 2021

Guest Contributor for Leather Working Group: Stephen Sothmann-President Leather and Hide Council of America 

In recent months, there have been multiple articles in popular media outlets questioning leather’s status as a byproduct of meat or dairy production. Although his is still sometimes a misunderstood concept, when examining the evidence, it is quite clear that hides are indeed a byproduct of these food-producing systems.



To support this statement, this article uses the USA as a case study and provides independent, verifiable facts, sourced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the economics of a hide in cattle and beef production. It will affirm the status of the hide (and thus, leather) as a pure byproduct of meat and dairy production. The USA is an advantageous case study in this respect due to the large amount of public, third-party market data available for analysis. However, it should also be noted that USA cattle hides fetch higher market prices than hides originating in less-developed beef and dairy production systems around the world due to product quality and logistics efficiencies. If the same level of robust market data were freely available in less developed cattle and beef production systems, the status of cattle hides as a byproduct resulting from those systems would be further reinforced due to the lower prices those hides typically fetch.

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