The Loma Prietan - April 2014

Meat Is the Huge Water Waster

By Mike Sage

How much water it takes to create a cheeseburger. Poster by Michelle Theis, Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club
How much water it takes to create a cheeseburger. Poster by Michelle Theis, Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club

The drought hits.  We are advised to save water by obeying the standard water-saving tips:  reduce lawn watering, install low-flow showerheads, take shorter showers, turn the faucet off while brushing teeth or shaving, etc.

But the one thing a person can do that is far more water-saving than all other methods combined -- going vegan (eating a plant-based diet) -- is seldom if ever mentioned by the media as a way to save water.

Meditate on this stunning statement from National Geographic: "On average, a vegan, a person who doesn't eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet."

The average indoor water use per person is about 70 gallons per day.  Thus, even if you totally eliminated your indoor water use (never take a shower, never brush your teeth, never flush the toilet, never wash clothes or dishes, etc.) and thereby save 70 gallons per day, that would be only 12% of the amount of water you would save each day by being vegan.

Plant-based foods have a much smaller water footprint than animal products.  Their production requires far fewer gallons of water per pound of food. 

Water required to produce one pound (1 lb.) of:

  • Beef = 2000 gallons of water
  • Pork = 576 gallons of water
  • Chicken = 468 gallons of water
  • Soybeans = 206 gallons of water
  • Wheat = 138 gallons of water
  • Corn = 108 gallons of water

Click here for source

 

Why does production of meat require so much more water than the production of plant foods?  There are several reasons:

  • The water that an animal drinks constitutes only 1% of the water footprint of the meat that will come from that animal.  
  • A farm animal eats plants for most of its life; an enormous amount of water is required to grow all of the food that the animal eats.  for source, click here.
  • Most of the food that animals eat is not used to build body mass; rather, it is used to fuel bodily activity and to maintain bodily functions (heartbeat, breathing, eating, digestion, the functioning of all organs, and the support of chemical reactions that occur in the body).
  • Animal digestion is nutritionally inefficient, resulting in partially-digested food being excreted that still contains nutrients.  Click here for more info.
  • Although much of an animal’s body is inedible (bone, cartilage, teeth, horns, hooves, hair, hide), water-fed plants were required to build and support all of those body parts.

Growing plants to be fed to billions of animals for humans to eat is vastly more wasteful and environmentally destructive than growing plants for people to eat directly.  Plants contain all the protein that humans need and no cholesterol.  Forests are being destroyed to grow crops to be fed to meat animals and to provide pasture for livestock.

 

CONCLUSION

Reduce your water footprint, be merciful to animals, improve your health, and fight habitat destruction by shifting your diet from unhealthful meat to delicious grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.  A useful guide for making an easy transition can be found here

 

Author Bio:  Mike Sage is a Bay Area native, a Mathematics graduate of UC Berkeley, a husband, father, grandfather, and software engineer.  Mike lives with his wife in Santa Clara and is active in his church; he is a Life Member (1983) of Sierra Club, Loma Prieta Chapter.  Mike would welcome your comments, which you may e-mail to him at mksage@gmail.com