The Water Footprint of Meat

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by theMcScotty
Last updated 6 years ago

Environmental Studies

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The Water Footprint of Meat

The Water Footprint of Meat

Local Scale: Our StudyThree students tracked their diets for a single day and calculated their water footprints. Vegan: 2974 LVegetarian: 3469 LOmnivore: 4404 LA single quarter-pound hamburger comprised nearly half of the omnivore's water footprint.

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Emily Auerbach Colin PetersonScott McElveen

Why is increasing global meat consumption a problem?

Impacts of Meat on Water- Eutrophication of surface waters from waste products- Nitrate leaching into groundwater- Biological inefficiency- Water required for animal feed- Deforestation for feed production and pasture increases runoff and decreases infiltration

Infographic from the Virtual Water Project

The animals raised for meat require plant feed to grow, which means that they not only need water directly but also require water to grow feed crops. For all animals, we harvest far fewer calories and energy from meat production than we put in. "[I]nefficiency is particularly high for beef, which uses about three-fths of the world’s agricultural land yet produces less than 5 percent of its protein and less than 2 percent of its calories." (Boucher et al. 2012)

Animal products have relatively large water footprints.

Why does meat require so much water?

Regional Scale: The United States

Infographic from the Heinrich Boeff Foundation

Infographic from NPR

Global Scale: Developing Nations

Meat Consumption Trends-Vegetarianism/veganism: Largely unchangingUnited States: Peaked in 2004, has since decreased by 10% -Global: Increased 300% from 1963 to 2001

Solutions-Adjust dietary patterns-Purchase eco-friendly meat-Increase production efficiency-Switch from beef to other meats-Incorporate plant protein in ground meat-Remove subsidies from meat production-Incorporate medical and environmental costs into meat

Image from Simple Food Healthy Life

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