While doing research for this post, I found some pretty unsettling statistics. It’s well known that water plays a massive role in everything we do, and there is no denying its importance. It’s not necessarily something we take for granted, but most of us tend to forget just how much water we actually use on an extremely regular basis.

So here’s one of those troubling numbers: it takes approximately 1,800 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. This number – beef’s water footprint – is astounding. For comparison’s sake, the amount of water used to produce one pound of beef is equivalent to that of 90 eight-minute showers. These numbers are scary, but the logic behind them makes sense. Beef’s water footprint is so large because the methods of converting cattle to market meat are vastly inefficient, and the amount of time it takes for cattle to metabolize their food is expansive. This is the feed conversion ratio, and it is directly correlated to the amount of water needed to produce beef. The bigger the feed, the bigger the footprint.

There are certainly methods to taming this issue, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a concrete and terminal solution. We don’t need to cut meat out of our diets entirely. Instead, we can choose to eat beef in smaller portions, or even substitute it with chicken (already a healthier option). Chicken’s water footprint is 468 gallons – not perfect, but undoubtedly a huge improvement. Whatever your method may be, make sure to consider these numbers when eating meat.