• Martha Maria Angelopoulou

How much water is in 1 kilo of beef?

This has nothing to do with vegans or vegetarians. It’s all about realizing how much water is needed to produce just 1 kilo of meat and why we should be cutting off some meat from our diets for many reasons, water included. It is actually a matter of sustainability with many aspects. Today, we will focus just on one of these: Water!

So, let's start from the beginning. In an industrial beef production system, it takes on average three years before the animal is slaughtered to produce about 200 kilos of boneless beef. During these three years, the cow consumes nearly 1.300 kg of grains such as wheat, oats, barley, corn, dry peas, and other small grains. Along with these it also consumes 7.200 kg of roughages such as pasture, dry hay, silage, and other roughages. For producing all this kind of food, we need 3.060.000 liters of water.

But the cow doesn’t just eat. It also drinks. And it drinks -what else?- water. Specifically, a cow drinks 24.000 liters of during these three years. This amount, we shall also add the 7.000 liters for servicing the farmhouse and for slaughtering processes.

What do we get? 3.091.000 liters. That’s the amount of water we need in order to produce 200 kilos of boneless beef. According to this, we need 15.400 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of boneless beef.

Can you actually visualize 15.400 liters of water in your head? Just think of a 1 liter water bottle. Put it in front of you and now imagine a wall of 8m length and 40m height built out of these 1 liter water bottles. That’s how much water is -let’s say- in your steak (without adding the cooking process)! Believe it or not, most of the water we use -actually the 92% of it- is used in food production. In order to save at least a small part of it -even a small part can make a great change- we can just follow some simple steps in our everyday life. Some of these are the following ones:

  1. Go meat-free once a week. Just once a week. It is not a big deal for you but it is a great deal for our planet, especially if you convince your beloved ones to follow your example. You see, the average daily water consumption of a meat-eating person is 5000 liters of water per day (whereas the average for a vegetarian is 2500 liters). So, one day in one week is a lot if you put it on a yearly perspective. Isn’t it?

  2. Opt for grass fed meat, an organic one or meat from sheep or chicken and have in mind that agri-corporations and supermarkets do not generally fit the grass-fed livestock model. Cheap meat is usually fed on grain, corn-fed beef is the problem.

  3. Do not waste food! Not just meat, but any kind of food! In the advanced economies we throw away approximately 1/3 of the food we purchase and with it, we throw as well all the water resources we use to produce that food.

These steps, can lead us towards a more water secure future. It’s in our hands and -definitely- on our plates. So, do you think you can make the difference? If yes, share this article and also have a look to a super creative aspect of it by visiting thewaterweeat.com. It was the site which inspired us to include this article on our blog and share its information with you. You wanna know more? Then look up for Tony Allan’s book, entitled “Virtual Water: Tackling the Threat to Our Planet's Most Precious Resource”. Together we can make every drop count ;-)

Tony Allan, Virtual Water: Tackling the Threat to Our Planet's

Most Precious Resource, I.B. Tauris, 2011.

Photo: Antonio Grosz via Unsplash

#WorldWaterDay #thewaterweeat #savethewater #foodsecurity #foodsecuritycenter #FSCGreece


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