Whether you ingest leather by accident or you find yourself in a dire situation where you have nothing else to eat, ingesting leather is something that can pose a health risk. In this article, we’ll be talking about what kind of leather is edible or not, and what can happen to you if you eat it.
Can you eat leather to survive?
The chances of you being in a situation where you only have leather to eat is slim, but not impossible. If it comes to the point where you’re famished and you only have a leather product for some reason, then yes, you may eat leather (not tanned) to survive. It will also buy you days to look for better food options and look for help.
What happens if you eat leather?
If you think about it, real leather is made from the hides of animals, and when you’re out of options, what’s stopping you from eating them? For starters, leather garments are already processed and sometimes contain chemicals from the tanning process that make them toxic for humans and animals.
Here are some of the things you might experience after ingesting leather:
You get an upset stomach
This is perhaps the least negative consequence of eating leather. Eating natural leather when it hasn’t been tanned won’t kill you as long as you chew them properly. Since natural leather contains protein and water, ingesting it will most likely just cause an upset stomach as it may be hard to digest.
There have even been several documentations of pre-historic people softening leather with their teeth before eating them in times when food was scarce. However, the situation was different back then as their leather items didn’t go through chemical processes like they do in our current times.
The tanning process today often uses harsh chemicals instead of plant extracts which may cause an upset stomach at best and diarrhea at worst. However, there are still some tanned leathers that may be edible such as:
- Vegetable-tanned leather
- Oil-tanned leather
- Mineral-tanned leather
- Chrome-tanned leather
You get really sick
If you happen to ingest leather materials that are heavily processed and tanned using harsh chemicals, there is a huge chance of you getting sick. The chemicals in the tanned leather items will cause you to empty out your stomach contents and might even make you bedridden for a few days as you recover from potential poisoning.
You remain unaffected
If you’re lucky and you have a strong digestive system, you might turn out fine even after eating leather. There are several ways that you can prepare the leather to make it edible and digestible. As long as you have access to water and fire, you can find ways to soften the leather and burn off as much chemicals as you can to make it safer for consumption.
Does leather have nutritional value?
Natural leather contains about 30-35% protein and around 70% water, so yes it has a nutritional value. Eating leather as your last resort might help you survive for a few more days or weeks. Protein and water are enough to provide some form of sustenance, but you shouldn’t rely on them for a long period of time.
However, if you have a tanned (doesn’t matter if it’s vegetable or chemical-tanned) leather item, you will need to wash, boil, and soften the leather to keep yourself safe. Even then, it’s not guaranteed that it won’t make you sick because of the chemicals and it will most likely not contain enough nutrition to keep you alive for a few days.
Is leather toxic to humans?
It depends. Natural leather that hasn’t gone through the tanning process is generally safe. Those that are tanned using vegetable oil or minerals are also safe, but not entirely as it needs proper preparation before eating. However, chemically-tanned leather materials are toxic to humans and will do more harm than good if ingested.
How to eat leather
If you find yourself only having leather as your food source for some unfortunate reason, there are some ways that you can prevent getting sick. The first thing you need to do is know the types of leather and see how the leather is tanned. If it is tanned, it’s better to hunt for plants or other small animals that you can eat. If it’s natural leather and not processed with harsh chemicals, then that is good for a potential meal.
Boil the leather
It’s in every survivalist’s kit to have matches or a lighter to make fire. If you don’t have one, you can make fire using rocks and sticks, but it may take a while. You will also need water, the cleaner the better, which you can boil the leather.
Things you will need:
- Fireproof pot or container
- Make some fire using dried sticks and leaves.
- Filter the water if you can to make it as clean as possible before pouring it onto the pot,
- Clean and wash your leather item. Remove as much dirt as you can. It’s better if you can cut them up into small pieces for easy chewing and digesting.
- Let the water boil and put it in the leather.
- Leave it to soften up for at least 1 hour. This will also ensure that your meal is sterilized and free from bacteria.
- Remove from the boiling pot and consume as necessary.
- Make sure to chew properly and thoroughly to minimize the risk of getting an upset stomach.
Tips and extra information:
If you have natural leather that is made from pure animal hide, you can make a broth out of it. You can even re-use the broth for your next meal and you can add some edible and nutritious plants to your soup.
Soften the leather
You can soften the leather by boiling it, but if you don’t have the materials needed for boiling, you may chew on the leather to soften it with your saliva. The enzymes in your saliva will break down the leather into digestible bits, but this process is tiring and might take a while.
Doing this can also be drying to the mouth, thus making you thirstier, and might lead to dehydration if you don’t have a clean water source. Either way, the most important thing when it comes to eating stuff that is not designed for consumption is to make sure they’re clean, non-toxic, and digestible.
Roast the leather
If you want to sanitize your leather to make it safe for consumption but you don’t have a water source or a boiling pot, you can opt for roasting them. All you need to do is create a fire and place the leather next to it or on a stick so it can get charred. It might not be as soft as boiled leather, but it’s a good way to safely consume it without needing water.
What does leather taste like?
Leather has a unique earthy flavor when it’s natural and untanned. It won’t taste like much aside from that earthiness and thick but chewy texture on your mouth. On the other hand, chemically tanned and treated leather will taste almost bitter because of the process it has gone through. You might not also taste much of the earthiness.
The thought of eating leather might sound bizarre at first, but when you’re in a situation where you don’t have anything else to eat, you might not be in the place to be picky. Eating leather will not immediately put you in harm’s way, but it can be uncomfortable for you. That’s why it’s important to know which ones are edible and how you can safely consume them.
Can leather be made into food?
Although we strongly suggest against it, leather can be made into food if you don’t have any other options. You can boil the leather to make a soup or you can roast it next to a fire. You can also mix soft leather bits with vegetables to add more sustenance to your meal.
Is leather meat?
Real leather is made from livestock and leather is made from animal hide, so it can be considered a by-product of the meat industry. If the leather is harvested from the animals for the sole purpose of making leather garments, then it’s called a co-product.
Are fruit leathers healthy?
Fruit leather is just another term for dried food products. They are chewy and are usually considered a tasty snack for people from all over the world. Fruit leathers are healthy and contain dietary fibers, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and some carbs.
Do vegans still wear leather?
Yes, vegans do still wear leather, faux or vegan leather to be exact. Real leather items aren’t considered vegan. Vegans are against using real leather as those materials are made from animal skin and are not guaranteed to be ethically sourced.