Industry body the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) has calculated that 5.5 million hides generated by the US livestock industry in 2019 failed to reach the leather value chain. Some may still be in warehouses, LHCA said, but “a large percentage” are likely to have gone to waste.

LHCA said it had put the number of wasted hides at 5.5 million based on public data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Census Bureau. The slaughter numbers of around 33 million head of cattle in 2019 are regularly published by the USDA and widely circulated (leatherbiz publishes these figures every Friday).

Next, LHCA compared this data with its own figures for the exports of wet-salted and wet blue hides, information it publishes every month using data from two primary public sources: US Customs and USDA. The total figure for 2019 was 23.6 million hides.

It 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 the total number of US hides that went into leather production, domestically and globally, was 27.5 million.

“This means that about 5.5 million US hides, 17% of the total, never made it into the leather supply chain in one way or another in 2019,” said LHCA president, Stephen Sothmann, on releasing the figures.

Mr Sothmann added: “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, it is likely that a large percentage of those hides were discarded as waste.”