To eco-conscious foodies, stories about restaurants in urban centers composting food waste, growing their own garden out back, or recycling kitchen oil for biofuel are all most likely old news. But who knew that the latest bold move toward more sustainable restauranteuring would be a fashion statement?
Forward thinking Marlow & Sons is putting a new twist on what it means for a restaurant to ‘go green’, hoping to give customers an experience (and product) that will leave them with a lasting respect for the animal they have just consumed. Not only do diners have the option of ordering grass-fed pork and beef off the menu raised on local New York farms, but they can also bring home leather bags, pouches, belts, footballs, and medicine balls made from the hide of those same house-butchered pigs and cows.
These unique items range anywhere from $40 to $350, featuring all the natural imperfections on the hides that normally in the fashion world wouldn’t be considered high quality, according to designer Kate Huling. She and her husband Andrew own the restaurant as well as the butcher shop next door, Marlow & Daughters. Huling explains the inspiration for these new products in a recent interview with ABC, "One of the things that really motivates us is supporting farmers. We're also motivated by trying to connect people with food that they eat, the food that nourishes them and gives them energy."
Marlow & Sons collaborates with Barry Martin Fashion Limited, a leather goods company in New York City’s fashion district to make the products. In the future, Huling hopes to add rabbit fur hats and lambswool sweaters to the restaurant’s already unique list of articles made from the animals they purchase from farms for meat.
Will this concept catch on in the restaurant industry of utilizing animal hide that would normally be discarded or is Marlow & Sons an anomaly? Food & Drink Digital contributor Kristin Craik expresses skepticism, “From what I’ve seen, most people do not like to be reminded of what animal they’re eating. Even more, the price tag is a little high if they want diners to purchase the products with the idea of remembering and honoring the animal. This could almost go either way. People could avoid the restaurant completely because animal rights beliefs make them too grossed out or fashionistas may adore the convenient idea of simultaneously eating while shopping for designer items.” At the very least, they are thinking outside the box and making creative connections between their supply chain, waste material and end product.
Hear more from co-owner Kate Huling in this video from ABC:
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Lesley Lammers is a freelance sustainability consultant and journalist, focused on the intersection between the environment, food, social impact, human rights, health and entrepreneurship.