|Ice in the Cow's Water Tank This Morning|
Some may recall my mention in a previous post awhile back that MM and I were looking hard at the prospect of reducing our meat consumption still further than it already is. (which is pretty modest, including no red meat) The idea of doing this has less to do with vegetarianism and health considerations than it does with agricultural practices.
More to the point, we are concerned--in fact, very concerned--about water. A few months back I highlighted a National Geographic issue which was devoted entirely to the subject of water, dealt with where water was in shortfall, where in overabundance, and the future of our thirsty planet. This past week, a region where MM and I have lived, Queensland, Australia, has been hard hit with too much water. And NOVA's recent program, "Secrets Beneath the Ice" focused on the very scary melting of the Antarctic ice shelf, which has happened before, and which if it continues now will result in a rise of 19 feet of water, obliterating coastlines worldwide. Of course, these areas currently contain huge populations. OTOH, at the same time, drought is prevalent in countless places the world over, and clean drinking water is in short supply worldwide. All these considerations require prompt attention from the world at large, but the world at large is preoccupied with too many other things...
I don't believe people are aware of what is called our water footprint, the industrialized world's use of this precious resource; so in an attempt to pique your interest, I'm going to lay down a bunch of interesting and salient facts, lifted directly from the National Geographic. I make no apologies here, as I believe NG's primary mission is to educate. In this case, education is best served by quoting directly. So, here we go:
"Serve a pound of beef and you are also serving up 1,857 gallons of water. A cup of coffee? That's 37 gallons --enough to fill the average bathtub. Pull on a pair of jeans and you're soaking in 2,900 gallons. This is our freshwater consumption we don't directly see. It's called virtual water: the amount of water used to create a product. The concept was coined by geographer Tony Allan of King's College London in the early 1990's to explain why Middle Eastern countries, with limited water resources, were not in outright war over water. His answer? They imported food--food grown with other country's water. Dutch scientist[s]...calculated the virtual water in commodities as a tool for water management and to give countries, companies, and individuals a clearer mesure of their water footprint."
Here are some shocking figures when it comes to producing items and commodities we take for granted:
1,857.....the amount of water it takes to produce one pound of beef
1,382.....the amount of water it takes for a pound of sausage
756 gallons for a pound of sausage
469 gallons for a pound of chicken
589...for a pound of processed cheese
193 for a pound of plums
400 for a pound of eggs
138 for a pound of yogurt
103 for a pound of bananas
31 for a pound of potatoes
..and now for a few hardgoods...
2,900 gallons to produce one pair of jeans
2,800 gallons to produce one bedsheet
766 gallons to produce one cotton T-shirt
A cup of tea only takes 9 gallons; and a glass of beer only takes 20 gallons!
So, again, lifting the explanation from the NG:
"Why meat takes more water: A human diet that regularly includes meat requires 60 percent more water than a diet that's predominantly vegetarian. With the world's middle class expanding, meat consumption is expected to double by 2050.
It takes 808,400 gallons of water for 18,700 pounds of pasture, feed, and hay for the life of a beef animal raised for food. Add to that 6,300 gallons of water for the animal's drinking water; plus 1,900 gallons for cleaning (machine milking, cleaning, slaughter-house cleanup, etc.); equals a grand total of 816,600 gallons used during the life of one beef animal raised for food." (industrial farming, the source of most people's meat today).
Gets you thinking, doesn't it? Is this "sustainable?" Hardly. I have left red meat mostly off my plate for years now. After the first little while, I haven't missed it at all. Of course, we have the milk cow, and she takes a good bit of water, too. But far less in terms of the water footprint...A pound of yogurt takes 138 gallons versus 1,857 gallons for a pound of beef.
Please give me some feedback on this important subject. I'm interested in what you have to say...