Hides and Leather
Hides and leather have been used since ancient times for boots, clothing, shields, armor, tents, bottles, buckets, and cups. Leather is produced through the tanning of hides, pelts, and skins of animals. The remains of leather have been found in the Middle East dating back at least 7,000 years.
Today, most leather is made of cowhide but it is also made from the hides of lamb, deer, ostrich, snakes, crocodiles, and even stingray. Cattle hides are the most valuable byproduct of the meat packing industry. U.S. exports of cowhides bring more than $1 billion in foreign trade, and U.S. finished leather production is worth about $4 billion.
Prices - The average monthly price of wholesale cattle hides (packer heavy native steers FOB Chicago) in 2007 rose +4.9% yr/yr to 90.53 cents per pound, which was a new record high.
Supply - World production of cattle and buffalo hides in 2005 (latest data available) rose by +1.8% yr/yr to a record high of 8.033 million metric tons. The world's largest producers of cattle and buffalo hides in 2005 were the U.S. with 13% of world production, Brazil with 10%, and Argentina with 5%. U.S. new supply of cattle hides from domestic slaughter in 2004 (latest data available) fell -7.8% yr/yr to 32,728 million hides, which is far below the record high of 43.582 million hides posted in 1976.
U.S. production of leather footwear has been dropping off sharply in recent years due to the movement of production offshore to lower cost producers. U.S. production of leather footwear in 2003 (latest data available) fell -46% yr/yr to 22.3 million pairs and was a mere 4% of the 562.3 million pairs produced in 1970.
Demand - World consumption of cowhides and skins in 2000, the last reporting year for the series, rose +1.4% to 4,774 metric tons, which was a record high for the data series, which goes back to 1984. The world's largest consumers of cowhides and skins in 2000 were the U.S. with 13.0% of world consumption, Italy (10.6%), Brazil (8.9%), Mexico, (6.0%), Argentina (6.0%), and South Korea (5.9%).
Trade - U.S. net exports of cattle hides in 2004 (latest data available) fell -4.3% yr/yr to 17.388 million hides from the 15-year high of 21.750 million hides posted in 2001. The total value of U.S. leather exports in 2004 rose +16.8% yr/yr to $1.344 billion. The largest destinations for U.S. exports in 2006 were South Korea (which took 17% of U.S. exports), Taiwan (10%), Mexico (6%), Italy (3%), and Thailand (2%). World imports of cowhides and skins in 2000 (latest data available) rose +2.8% yr/yr to a record high of 2,058 metric tons. The world's largest importers of cowhides and skins in 2000 were South Korea (with 13% of world imports in 2000), Italy (11%) and Taiwan (7%).