Monday, August 1, 2016

The Impact of the Bovine Industry -- Part 1

You may be wondering what Bovine is? Bovine is leather that is made from cow hide. Cows are the largest population and easiest to maintain source animals, making them the most abundant and common leather source. Cowhide, although being one of the heaviest and toughest leathers, is the most inexpensive due to its high availability and resistance to dirt and water. 65% of all leather products produced around the world are made from Bovine but how does it get made and at what costs (not talking financially here) (Hoekstra & Chapagain, 2008)? In this mini-series we will be following the production of Bovine leather from cow to the making of a Coach purse through the eyes of the virtual water and chemicals used in the process. By the end, we will have gained a vast amount of knowledge of where some of our favorite accessories come from and what we can do to help mitigate the environmental impact.
                Hide is a byproduct of the food production from the source animal, in this case a cow or calf. Let us first look at what it takes to raise this cow to get it to the proper age and weight to begin this process. It takes three years for a cow to grow to the proper size and weight before it can be slaughtered, this is where we get the hide from. Over the course of these three years the cow will consume roughly 1,300 kilograms of grains (wheat, oats, barley or corn) and 7,200 kilograms of roughages (pasture, dry hay or silage). The production of all these grains and roughages requires roughly 3,060,000 liters of water. The cow will drink almost 24,000 liters of water as well. Finally, approximately 7,000 liters of water will be used in servicing the farmhouse and for the slaughtering process. So far this is a total of 3,091,000 liters of water to produce roughly 537 kg cow itself or about 7,756 liters per kilogram (Hoekstra & Chapagain, 2008). This is where the tradeoff of the weight of the hide in proportion to the weight of the cow comes in.
The amount of “green”, unprocessed, hide that comes from a cow is roughly 10% of the weight of the cow itself (Hoekstra & Chapagain, 2008). Let us use the weight of the example cow above to figure out how much green hide will come from this cow.

(537 kg)/cow  × .10=53.7  kg⁄cow

                53.7 kg of green hide comes from our example cow. Tune in next time to learn how leather is tanned and the harm that can occur to the environment from this process.

Sources Used:

Hoekstra, A. Y., & Chapagain, A. K. (2008). Globalization of Water: Sharing the Planet's Freshwater Resources. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

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