Will a farmer raise cattle just for leather?

According to the analysis of prices of the cattle and its hide, cattle skins represented 6% to 8% of an American cattle’s value. When prices for cattle hides go up, profit margins improve, and ranchers are instigated to buy and raise more cattle. OK, great! If we all wear less leather, than there will be fewer cattle bought, right? And if we all wear no leather, than the meat industry goes out of business!

Actually, we can see what happens when we all wear less leather, because it’s already happened. Demand for leather has been decreasing in the past decade, as consumers switch from leather shoes to synthetic and wool footwear. Leather prices have also dropped. Unfortunately, global demand for beef has been rising. So, now with high demand for beef, and low demand for the hides, there is a rise in the glut of cattle.

“It’s a byproduct of the industry,” says O My Bag founder Paulien Wesselink. “It’s stuff that would otherwise be thrown away, literally.” O My Bag sources from the area round Kolkata in India. And most families will raise cattle not just for the milk, but also the meat, which is important for their nutrition, income. The leather, which is worth about 5% of the overall value of the cattle, is just a bonus.

The leather industry will never keep the meat industry going,” Wesselink says. “People there live in poverty, so it doesn’t make sense for them to disregard the 95% of the cattle. There is always an industry for meat. As long as that is the case, we had better do something with the leather.”

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