At the last Chuckanut Transition meeting, water issues were one of the topics discussed. I brought up the amount of water used in beef production and it was agreed that it was high, but no one knew for sure how high. A quick web search brought up three web sites: that gave numbers
Here are the numbers:
water req'd site 1* site 2** site 3***
per pound beef 2500 gal 1800 gal 1800 gal
per pound wheat 25 gal na 160 gal
Most of the water required to grow beef is used in growing the grain to feed the cattle. It also must be remembered that these figures apply to industrial meat production. That is hardly the same thing as using cattle to condition fallow fields during rotation of organic crops. Grass lands are not healthy without grazing animals.
On the other hand, industrial meat raising is an incredibly cruel and ugly process that destroys soil, pollutes water, creates resistant pathogens, and provides a tortured, toxic product that is sold as "food." And yes, it uses lots of water.
We are very fortunate to have local, pasture grown meat around here and I raise meat rabbits (although I cannot find organic rabbit food pellets). Personally, health issues have convinced me to cut down on meat. I now eat meat at home once or twice a week and still eat meat in restaurants on occasion. I imagine the restaurant meat is of the toxic variety. I believe that cutting down on meat consumption, whether it is one meat free meal per week, eating only a couple of meat meals per week, or going totally vegan improves both one's health and the health of a livable planet, especially if care is taken to eat local organic meat. There are lots of personal and economic factors that weigh in one's decision. Water is only part of the issue, but it is a big part and it will get bigger as our society continues to waste and poison its water supply, and as climate change makes what is left less reliable.