Dear Global Leather Industry Colleagues,
I want to draw your attention to the attached infographic that the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) intends to send out and post on social media channels later today. We will accompany it with a press release that provides additional information about the industry and basic facts about the association. Using a new media tool we recently acquired, we will be sending this infographic and press release to a significant number of media contacts in fashion, footwear, sustainability and lifestyle media outlets. Currently, we have a target list of several hundred media outlets that will receive this information.
Our goal with this campaign is to prompt a discussion among general media outlets about the waste that is generated when hides are not recycled for leather production, and when real leather is replaced by synthetic alternatives. We have witnessed in recent months a few general media outlets exploring this topic (examples include Bloomberg, NPR’s Planet Money, the LA Times, among others) and discussing the pros and cons of real leather versus synthetic alternatives. They rarely get all of the facts about our industry correct, but at the very least they are exploring the difference between real and synthetic (mostly plastic) alternatives. We believe this is a positive step in the popular coverage of our industry.
I am reaching out to you prior to this release for a few reasons. First, if you find this infographic and information to be beneficial and informative, we would appreciate amplification in any way you feel comfortable (retweets, posts on social media, etc.). I will ensure you receive the final version for this purpose. Second, and more importantly, we want to ensure you all understand where our statistics came from and how we arrived at our final estimations. From a media perspective, it would be very bad if one entity in the leather industry contradicts the other on an issue like this, so we desperately want to avoid that in case you are contacted for any additional quotes or opinions by media outlets.
As we all know from anecdotes in the industry some amount of U.S. hides (along with other countries) did not make it into the leather supply chain last year. We attempted to estimate the U.S. number based on the following information and logic. The statistics we used are all derived using public data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Census Bureau. We are aware there are other datasets available from private sources (Piers, TDM, Global Trade Atlas, etc.), but we thought it would be best to stick to the public data for this project.
The slaughter numbers (~33 million) are regularly published by the USDA and widely circulated. We compared that data to our hide/wet blue export data, which comes from two primary public sources (US Customs on a monthly basis, and USDA weekly export sales). There was a fairly large difference between the two sources of data regarding the actual number of US hides/wet blue that were exported in 2019, so we surveyed a large number of US hide producers and processors to get their opinion on the issue. Most were in agreement, based on their own internal shipment data, that the actual number was in the middle of those two data points. So, we took the average of the two data sets. We then estimated the number of hides that are consumed domestically in the US based on an average of previous years’ data, and came to the conclusion that about 17% or 5.5 million US hides never made it into the leather supply chain in one way or another in 2019.
We, of course, have no way of knowing how many of those hides are sitting in warehouses versus how many of them ended up in landfills, but as we all know from anecdotal evidence likely a large percentage of those hides were discarded as waste. That is what we are trying to highlight with this message, and the story we are trying to get across to the media.
Please feel free to reach out to Michael or myself if you have any questions, and be on the lookout for the public release later today.
All the best,
Stephen M. Sothmann J.D., M.B.A.
Leather & Hide Council of America
1150 Connecticut Ave NW, 12th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036 USA
An Affiliate of the North American Meat Institute www.meatinstitute.org.