Water Sustainability and Food Choices

Thinking about what I want to eat for dinner, I don’t often consider how my choices are impacting the environment. The agriculture and livestock industries require massive amounts of water; with this said, some choices for dinner are more environmentally sustainable than others. According to Kai Olson-Sawyer, a Senior Research and Policy Analyst in the GRACE Water and Energy Programs, “the total amount of water needed – to produce one pound of beef is 1,799 gallons of water; one pound of pork takes 576 gallons of water. As a comparison, the water footprint of soybeans is 216 gallons; corn is 108 gallons”. Thinking about the amount of fresh water required to raise livestock vs grow crops, choosing a plant-based diet is much better for long-term environmental sustainability, due to the extreme strain on our water resources from the livestock. The extensive amount of water required to raise animals comes partially from how much the animals need to eat and drink, as well as the number of animals that are produced in our massive food industry, especially in the United States. Due to the large differences in water requirements for production, plant-based diets contribute to much better environmental sustainability than diets that include meat.

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4 thoughts on “Water Sustainability and Food Choices

  1. In my post, I also talked about the amount of water it takes to produce the meat that we eat everyday. I never really considered the amount of water it takes to produce the meat that I put on my plate for meals each day. Meat is very central to the American diet, so I agree, that it is important to consider a more plant based diet. The numbers you present really make this clear that it takes significantly more water to produce beef compared to soy beans and corn. Why do you think this is?

  2. I somewhat knew that eating meat had ramifications for the environment, but I was unaware of how detrimental to the world’s water supply eating meat truly was. Coupling this with the amount of CO2 that livestock produces, being a vegetarian seems like the environmentally friendly option. Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that the majority, or even half of the world would commit to eating vegetarian. So I guess we have to find other means to waste less water and emit less CO2 in other areas.

  3. So I had no clue AT ALL that producing meat requires a boat load of water. 1,799 gallons for beef?!?! That seems wildly excessive but according to the facts, it leaves me and I’m sure a lot of other people something to think about regarding meal preparation and food choices. I personally love meat, but I eat vegetarian too because there are some delicious and nutritious recipes that provide one with all the nutrients, including protein, from simply plant based foods.

  4. I agree with the notion that we are too centered on a meat diet as a society. The numbers speak to the notion that the over consumption of meat is harming to our environment. The production of vegetables would use less water and it would a simple yet important solution.

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