Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Meat Makes Our Planet Thirsty

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the water-dissolving-and-water-removing dept.

Earth 545

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Mames McWilliams writes in the NYT that with California experiencing one of its worst droughts on record, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and grapes. 'Who knew, for example, that it took 5.4 gallons to produce a head of broccoli, or 3.3 gallons to grow a single tomato? This information about the water footprint of food products — that is, the amount of water required to produce them — is important to understand, especially for a state that dedicates about 80 percent of its water to agriculture.' But for those truly interested in lowering their water footprint, those numbers pale next to the water required to fatten livestock. Beef turns out to have an overall water footprint of roughly four million gallons per ton produced (PDF). By contrast, the water footprint for "sugar crops" like sugar beets is about 52,000 gallons per ton; for vegetables it's 85,000 gallons per ton; and for starchy roots it's about 102,200 gallons per ton.

There's also one single plant that's leading California's water consumption and it's one that's not generally cultivated for humans: alfalfa. Grown on over a million acres in California, alfalfa sucks up more water than any other crop in the state. And it has one primary destination: cattle. 'If Californians were eating all the beef they produced, one might write off alfalfa's water footprint as the cost of nurturing local food systems. But that's not what's happening. Californians are sending their alfalfa, and thus their water, to Asia.' Alfalfa growers are now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year from this drought-ridden region to the other side of the world in the form of alfalfa.

Beef eaters are already paying more. Water-starved ranches are devoid of natural grasses that cattle need to fatten up so ranchers have been buying supplemental feed at escalating prices or thinning their herds to stretch their feed dollars. But McWilliams says that in the case of agriculture and drought, there's a clear and accessible actions most citizens can take: Changing one's diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with edible plants like legumes, nuts and tubers results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual's food-related water footprint. Going vegetarian reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent. 'It's seductive to think that we can continue along our carnivorous route, even in this era of climate instability. The environmental impact of cattle in California, however, reminds us how mistaken this idea is coming to seem.'"

cancel ×

545 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Interesting Math (like there's another variety) (0)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46444457)

In the water-deprived future, a fat ribeye will still be more expensive than a glass of dihydrogen monoxide.

Re:Interesting Math (like there's another variety) (5, Funny)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 7 months ago | (#46444595)

True, true... But in the the water-deprived future the Spice must Flow.

Re:Interesting Math (like there's another variety) (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#46444679)

There are some major differences in the water.
Animals can move towards water, including many naturally occurring locations. Plants grow where they are planted, and they are dependent on nature giving them water.

Now the real issue is about how we farm. These farms in the dessert, because the weather stays warmer all year, comes at a cost of heavy water usage.
Farms up in the north east are smaller, however they take advantage of many of the natural resources around them, ponds, adequate rainfall. At the expense of a shorter growing season.

Re:Interesting Math (like there's another variety) (5, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | about 7 months ago | (#46444795)

"Animals can move towards water"

Which means that they rip up stream banks, kill native vegetation, and defecate in the water. Domestic cattle really destructive of the watershed and have a large negative impact on water quality. Also, sure cattle can move, but since the drought is regional they would have to move to Iowa or Indiana to get far enough away.

Shill (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444459)

Yet more shill from the vegetarian/vegan department.

Re:Shill (4, Insightful)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444497)

Can you dispute the statement, or do you just want to attack the person? I love my meat, but if the numbers are true then we have an issue, especially the exportation part.

Re:Shill (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444565)

Why does it matter if we export water as long as we are getting paid for it? Presumably nobody is being dumb enough to sell a gallon of water for 50 cents and then buy it back for a dollar. So who the fuck cares? Are you worried we're going to run out? Simply saying that "meat costs a lot of resources" and other bullshit scare tactics doesn't even make me blink. Eating a juicy steak makes me a million times happier than eating boiled cabbage so the fact that a steak costs 10 times more is still a bargain as far as I'm concerned.

Re:Shill (0, Troll)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444625)

Yea, sell a gallon of water for $1, then tomorrow have to buy it back for $10. Capitalism does not solve all problems, in fact it does not solve any really. Water, like oil, are societies resources, and is not unlimited. It is something that we need, as a nation, to survive, and therefore should not just be unilaterally sold with "yay capitalism".

It does not matter if a juicy steak makes you 200 billion time happier if it harms the overall society in the end.

Re:Shill (2)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 7 months ago | (#46444683)

How do you sell something "unilaterally"? Is that the same as giving things away?

Re:Shill (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444761)

You sell it without anyone elses involvement...Especially for something like water where ownership of our waterways is tenuous at best.

Re:Shill (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46444781)

You're selling it always in the same direction, of course. ;-)

Re:Shill (2, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 7 months ago | (#46444689)

if it harms the overall society in the end.

By that logic, stop using your computer. Between the mining of elements used in its construction, the huge amount of water needed to produce the parts, and everything else that goes into making a computer, it's harming society.

Oh wait, it makes you happy using a computer? Well then, carry on, society be damned.

Re:Shill (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444767)

Computers can have a net benefit to society. We can figure out with their aid how to solve problems, including the ones they cause. Eating a steak solves nothing other than your own personal satisfaction.

Re:Shill (1, Interesting)

nevermindme (912672) | about 7 months ago | (#46444887)

For that pleasure of eating a steak, I provide a fraction of a job to a US farmer, a US rancher, a US butcher, a US truck driver, a US refrigeration specialist and a US checkout clerk, the supply chain for meat is much more constant through booms and busts and spreads the wealth effect much more than for the collection of Integrated Circuits made in china. You smugness on deciding if my lifestyle choices are good or bad for society really prove nothing but liberalism and veganism are nothing but your opinion multiplied by a political correctness that says I cant respond in a human manner. I can only conclude Vegetarianism and Veganism robs the fallowers of this cult the the fats that keep you brain sane,

Re:Shill (2)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444957)

Obviously you cant read. I eat meat, I just had a nice burger yesterday on the grill. That being said you are more worried about the monetary value of the meat, where I am worried about the long term social value of the meat, including the effect of you eating that meat on the availability of resources to your great great grandchildren. My issue is about sustaining the planet, where yours is about sustaining your wallet.

Re:Shill (1)

dylan_- (1661) | about 7 months ago | (#46444785)

By that logic, stop using your computer.

If what you produce on your computer has the same value to society as the AC's excrement, then maybe you *should* consider stopping using it...

Re:Shill (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46444843)

By that logic, stop using your computer. Between the mining of elements used in its construction, the huge amount of water needed to produce the parts, and everything else that goes into making a computer, it's harming society.

Actually, that's not the same logic, that's a different one (if there is any logic in your claim, that is). "Stop using your computer" would be equivalent to "stop eating", whereas "switch to vegetables" would be equivalent to...I don't know, "start using mentats"? Something like that - replacing stuff with something different of equivalent value, even if it works differently. You haven't proposed a replacement or a substitute.

Re:Shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444937)

How about just stop making computers in a way that requires us to have to buy entire new ones so often? Same for all other consumer electronics. One trip to your local landfill will show you there has to be a more efficient use of resources. Upgrade, repair, recycle, re-use can help minimize the overall environmental effects.

Re:Shill (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 7 months ago | (#46444801)

Presumably nobody is being dumb enough to sell a gallon of water for 50 cents and then buy it back for a dollar. So who the fuck cares?

Because these are not market forces at play, they are government forces.

It's so bad that government gangs will send men with guns [beforeitsnews.com] to your house to haul you off to prison (or kill you if you resist) if you collect rainwater from your roof for irrigation or fire protection.

Especially in the Colorado River basin, because "that's California's water." So people who live in the deserts there can have lush shubberies tended by Mexican servants and grow alfalfa for Asia. Have you ever walked down a street in, say, Palm Springs, and noticed the landscaping difference on a vacant lot? It's quite impressive.

If there were strong property rights and markets at play here, then, sure, let the prices fall where they may, but that is entirely not the situation at hand.

Re:Shill (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444867)

So where is this happening? The article mentions nothing about men with guns being sent, or even them coming to houses who are doing it.

Re:Shill (0)

amalcolm (1838434) | about 7 months ago | (#46444807)

'. Eating a juicy steak' Is this really your idea of culinary perfection ... how sad. Still each to his own, I guess

Re:Shill (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#46444921)

Culinary perfection? What the hell is wrong with you? Lots of people find steak delicious. Not everyone has to share your opinion.

Re:Shill (1)

Himmy32 (650060) | about 7 months ago | (#46444579)

Exportation isn't the problem it is with trade imbalance. Ships are coming and going from Asia. It's best if they don't return empty. So there is a discount for goods shipped back, if there is a trade imbalance. So that drives down the transportation cost of goods like alfalfa going back. An American eating less/no meat isn't going to solve that problem. This is economics. So if there is a water shortage, high water usage should be charged based on use of the community resource. Water costs would make it then uneconomical to send high water crops over seas.

Can't have crop subsidies and then complain when farmers grow crops to sell to people that make them money...

Re:Shill (5, Insightful)

putaro (235078) | about 7 months ago | (#46444619)

First, people like to talk about "consuming" water. Water isn't consumed because it isn't turned into something else permanently, unlike say, oil or coal, which do not replenish in a reasonable amount of time. The only time the amount of water being used is actually relevant is when it's being pulled from a finite source for irrigation, like an underground aquifer or a river. A large portion of the planet gets sufficient rainfall to support all manner of agriculture. Raising alfalfa in California is dumb. Raising rice in Japan is not.

Feeding cattle on grassland that is not irrigated is not "consuming" water. As long as the land is not over-grazed it's not really an issue. In fact, the grass needs to be eaten and fertilized to thrive - it's co-evolved with large ruminants like cattle or horses.

So, these statistics are meaningless because it depends on where you're growing the crops as to whether or not you're consuming a finite resource. They're only useful in a local context. There are other side effects of raising cattle, such as deforestation, that are relevant.

Re:Shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444881)

What he said!

http://www.businessinsider.com/lockheed-martin-desalination-graphene-filters-2013-3

Re:Shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444629)

but if the numbers are true then we have an issue

"issue" as in "let's talk about it incessantly while doing absolutely nothing". People don't want to behave responsibly. They just want to make smalltalk loosely focused on what would be responsible.

And this Slashdot discussion will be just like that: lot's of talking points, moderation points, back and forth. But certainly nobody changing his behavior in any direction. At best finetuning his flavor of self-righteousness.

Re:Shill (1)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 7 months ago | (#46444725)

In the end, there will of course be legislation, so that others will have to change their behaviour. That's what it's all about.

Re:Shill (1, Flamebait)

N1AK (864906) | about 7 months ago | (#46444645)

The only issue we appear to have is that either water is being sold too cheaply or the most profitable use of water is growing animal feed. If water is too cheap then put a small charge on it and spend the money on measures to improve water retention and reduce usage. If Alfalfa is the most profitable thing then you're pretty much stuffed because cutting it back will hurt farmers and the wider economy.

A vegetarian who likes baths, or god forbid has a swimming pool, almost certainly consumes more water than an occasional meat eater with a water efficient home. So rather than blaming meat-eaters, or trying to judge lifestyles as good or bad, let's just stop discounting inefficient water usage and let people decide what use they want to cut back.

Re:Shill (0)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#46444943)

Here here. If there is a resource you want to preserve, make it more expensive. Works every time.

Not that it is without side effect... water is pretty darned important to human health. We don't want to make water too much more expensive for people of modest means or public health might suffer. First thing I'd give up is hand washing! LOL.

Re:Shill (5, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 7 months ago | (#46444647)

If you knew anything about farming you would know alfafa is use in crop rotation to replenish the nitrogen content of soil. It is a legume.

To me the whole thing reads like yet another article advocating the monoculture of soy and corn. Yes lets make cows diabetic too.

Re:Shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444667)

I love my meat, but if the numbers are true then we have an issue, especially the exportation part.

We have an issue, but that is not going to be solved by switching to eating vegetables.
There is no global water or food shortage, there exists plenty of it for everyone. The problem is transportation, the water and food are concentrated in places where it isn't accessible to everyone.
I happen to live in one of those nice regions where water and food exists plentiful. I can switch to a completely vegetarian diet, but that isn't going to help less fortunate people one bit.

Re:Shill (2, Interesting)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | about 7 months ago | (#46444769)

but if the numbers are true

3.3 gallons per tomato? That's a suspicious figure. No, I didn't RTFA, but let's run the numbers... How many tomato plants in an acre? How many fruits per plant? Multiply that by 3.3, and it seems very high.

Re:Shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444861)

What statement? It's a bunch of mixed numbers with a cute easy to consume conclusion. Shill tactics.

Now is anyone reading going to take the time to calculate the water usages calorie to calorie in terms of human consumption?

Don't think so. And that is what the article is counting on anyway. Even if those number where in their favor this article is good enough already to server their purpose, not any fair comparison or thoughtful analysis.

Re:Shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444527)

Hippie version of the scientific method:

1) Form a hypothesis, preferably an unfalsifiable one
2) Cherry pick data and cook numbers to "prove" hypothesis
3) Reject all data that contradicts your hypothesis
4) Promote hypothesis as conclusive science, rake in grant money.
5) Viciously attack anyone who challenges said hypothesis an anti-science "denier."

And if anyone challenges this as the legitimate scientific method, just tell them "clearly you don't understand how science works."

Re:Shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444615)

Why be a biggot agaist a hippie when that's pretty much the MO of any self-absorbed asshole whatever they're selling...?

Re:Shill (1)

fey000 (1374173) | about 7 months ago | (#46444635)

Hippie version of the scientific method:

1) Form a hypothesis, preferably an unfalsifiable one
2) Cherry pick data and cook numbers to "prove" hypothesis
3) Reject all data that contradicts your hypothesis
4) Promote hypothesis as conclusive science, rake in grant money.
5) Viciously attack anyone who challenges said hypothesis an anti-science "denier."

And if anyone challenges this as the legitimate scientific method, just tell them "clearly you don't understand how science works."

Good thing that you aren't following in that vein then, citing credible sources and supplying a solid, logical argument that can be clearly traced from premise to conclusion. And even better, you're doing it not for your own aggrandizement, but for the betterment of mankind. You go Mr. Anonymous hero!

Re:Shill (4, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | about 7 months ago | (#46444573)

They should send all the Vegans back to Vega

Re:Shill (3, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 7 months ago | (#46444631)

Not all farm land is suitable for growing vegetables, but it may be suitable for grazing. The big problem we have is that the herds are larger than what the growth on a certain land area can sustain and therefore carbohydrate supplements have to be purchased.

In contrast there's a balanced farming where the area of a farm only have the amount of animals that it can support, no more. Some supplements may be needed even then, but in those cases it's mostly a question of minerals, not carbohydrates.

The amount of water consumed by a bovine is only to some extent wasted, the majority ends up as urine that completes the cycle of returning nutrients to the land where the grazing occurs.

Overall - the major problem with water consumption for beef production is when the farm is unable to support the herd without artificial support.

You can just feel it (0)

Quila (201335) | about 7 months ago | (#46444849)

The sense of smugness and superiority.

And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of Acr (3, Insightful)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 7 months ago | (#46444465)

We just had a much needed rain. To protect fish from swimming up the delta they dumped thousands of acre feet of water into the bay. I'm all for restoring wetlands but we should prioritize water for humans during droughts. The poor are the hardest hit.

Re:And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (3, Insightful)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444511)

But what if, in prioritizing water for humans now, you cause more issues latter by destroying even more of the food chain's habitat?

Re: And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (1)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 7 months ago | (#46444747)

It's not the food chain or fish in general. Nor is it a necessity. It's to help the delta smelt, which isn't as important as decreasing the cost of vegetables for the poor. This does not save or hurt wetlands it's arbitrary.

Re: And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444799)

So you are saying the smelt neither have a natural predator, or are the predator for any other items in its habitat? You seem to be making the assumption that preserving one animal has no other positive impacts, as though removing one species could not collapse a habitat. http://press.princeton.edu/cha... [princeton.edu]

Re:And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 7 months ago | (#46444545)

Without the fish, your rivers will die.
Why would you want to sacrifice your own healthy river for cattle feed in China?

Re:And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 7 months ago | (#46444569)

Thing is we are not talking about subsistence prioritization, we are talking about water's usage in what is essentially a luxury industry, an industry that is driving up the cost of everything else in the process. In this case, if we are going to 'prioritize humans' then that is it, humans will consume as much as they can and leave nothing, so there is no point where humans are 'done' and resources can be diverted for preservation.

As for the poor being hardest hit, that is not the fault of the drought, that is the fault of the middle class. Cheap beef raises water consumption and prices of everything else.

Re:And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (1)

putaro (235078) | about 7 months ago | (#46444633)

Are you talking about California? Drought doesn't hit poor people any harder than rich in California. Other areas, especially where subsistence farming is practiced, yes.

Re:And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (2)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444891)

So in that state water costs less for the poor than the rich? The point is that while it may cost the same, it hurts one group more because it costs more of their money as a percentage of their money.

Re:And Environmentalists Just Dumped Thousands of (2)

es330td (964170) | about 7 months ago | (#46444787)

The poor are the hardest hit.

The poor are ALWAYS hardest hit. The definition of "poor" in general context is "those lacking resources." No matter what harmful event happens on Earth, the "have-not's" are going to be most adversely impacted; the "have's" would have left, bought supplies, lived in brick & mortar instead of a modular home. lived on higher ground, etc.

Delta Smelt (0)

rlp (11898) | about 7 months ago | (#46444483)

Or California could stop diverting water to protect the Delta Smelt [thehill.com] .

Re:Delta Smelt (1, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 months ago | (#46444559)

Or, you know, people could have been smart enough to not irrigate crops in a desert. Nice attempt at counting political coup, though.

Re:Delta Smelt (3, Insightful)

rlp (11898) | about 7 months ago | (#46444737)

Humans have been turning desert into agricultural land via irrigation since the time of the Mesopotamians. Most of California is too dry to maintain agriculture and cities without irrigation. Which was working well until the government decided to dump massive amounts of water to protect a bait fish.

Re:Delta Smelt (1)

lfourrier (209630) | about 7 months ago | (#46444877)

other think that humans have turned green pasture into deserts since mesopotamia, with irrigation a doomed attempt to postpone the inevitable outcome, accelerating it by adding salinization of fields.

Re:Delta Smelt (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46444903)

Worked maybe, and even well for them, but not well overall. There are better places to grow crops, even places not being fully utilized, but they are not on the coast, which is the problem.

Said your self-righteous vegan friend (0, Troll)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46444485)

'nuff said.

Don't have kids (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444501)

If you're truly an environmentalist.

Alfalfa (4, Informative)

jamesl (106902) | about 7 months ago | (#46444513)

Alfalfa is used to feed dairy cattle that produce ... dairy ... used to make cheese, yogurt and other products. Alfalfa is not fed to beef cattle.

Re:Alfalfa (2, Informative)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46444571)

Beef cattle are fed grain at the auction lot to fast fatten them for conversion to burgers, but many/most ranchers I know use both coastal and alfalfa hay to supplement what nature provides on the range.

Re:Alfalfa (0)

master_kaos (1027308) | about 7 months ago | (#46444609)

For the most part sure, but where I live plenty of beef farmers use alfalfa, just not as much/high grade as dairy farmers. I see plenty of hay that have an alfalfa mix for beef cattle.

Re:Alfalfa (5, Insightful)

zerosomething (1353609) | about 7 months ago | (#46444651)

Half wrong. Beef cattle are fed Alfalfa, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

Also wrong from TFA "exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year" in Alfalfa. Alfalfa is typically dried/cured before use and it doesn't suck up every drop of water put on it. Just like there aren't 5 Gal of water in a head of broccoli. Most of that water goes back into the air and falls as show/rain in the rockies.

Re:Alfalfa (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#46444915)

Closer to 10% wrong. Beef cattle are rarely fed alfalfa - I say this as a former "farmer" 30 years ago as a teen. Alfalfa is twice as expensive as timothy or field grass. It does, however contain calcium, which is great (necessary) for lactating cattle a goats, which is why it's used mcuh more for dairy animals. They pretty much all get grain, though, because the energy content is higher. For Dairy, that means more calories available for producing milk, and for beef it translates to a heavier animal, which in turn is a higher dollar yield at market.

The 100 billion gallons of water in exported alfalfa, I agree, is so stupid that it basically invalidates the entire article's credibility.

Yup (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444515)

It's a frequent "let's play absurd" argument from meat eaters that plants have a central nervous system, too, and suffer and that they are being nice to plants by not eating meat.

But processing plants into meat before consumption requires easily six times as much vegetable matter than if you eat it right away. Now one can't put this to an immediate comparison since obviously the human digestive system can make almost no use at all from eating grass, so one needs to pick grass variants (like rice or maize) that process significant amounts of their energy into more humanly digestible sugars than cellulose.

But the short and the long story is: eating meat is an inefficient use of resources, and that's even the case when the particular meat animals (like cattle) are quite better at digesting plant matter than humans are.

Re:Yup (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444555)

And that will make meat more expensive than plants. So let capitalism sort it out.

Eat Turnip Steaks (2, Funny)

Dareth (47614) | about 7 months ago | (#46444825)

I will live on vegetables when they can make a turnip or some other vegetable taste like a nice juicy medium rare rib-eye steak.

Re:Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444855)

Now one can't put this to an immediate comparison since obviously the human digestive system can make almost no use at all from eating grass, so one needs to pick grass variants (like rice or maize) that process significant amounts of their energy into more humanly digestible sugars than cellulose.

Grasses are grown for reasons other than feeding cattle. Nitrogen fixation for crop rotation. Selling the hay for cattle feed is a bonus. Learn agriculture before you complain, hippie.

Vegetariaism won't help that much (-1)

cusco (717999) | about 7 months ago | (#46444525)

Going vegetarian will have one principle affect; corporations will export more meat than they do now. Meat production is where their capital is invested, so that's what they're going to make their money on. Stop eating meat today and tomorrow your meat will be on its way to China and Korea. An awful lot of vegetarians have o concept of what it costs to set up a farming operation, and how inflexible those resources are.

Re:Vegetariaism won't help that much (2)

scorp1us (235526) | about 7 months ago | (#46444621)

The big feature of a meat-based diet is being able to eat all year-round. But for the consumers in major metropolitan markets, seasonality of fruits and veggies has no meaning. We've figured out the supply chain to keep the staples produced year-round.

Pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444535)

Doesn't the price difference of this variety of food address this issue? Beef requires more resources to produce => Beef costs more in the supermarket.

Animals only borrow water. (0, Flamebait)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 7 months ago | (#46444543)

That's all very interesting, except that all animals only borrow water - they give it back in the form of water vapor when they breathe, sweat (for some) and pee.

In the case of livestock production, the pee is usually used as fertilizer for the surrounding fields, as it holds nutrients that plants need. So there's a bit of efficiency to it.

Oh, and let's not forget how many small animals are run through farm machinery [morehouse.edu] in the support of the vegan diet.

Re:Animals only borrow water. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444677)

LOL

Ok, now try thinking in terms of useable, drinkable water...

I get all the veggie hating going on, but trying to magic the issue away by suggesting the water is only "borrowed" is stupid.

Unless you're willing to drink animal breath/sweat/piss...?

Re:Animals only borrow water. (2)

zerosomething (1353609) | about 7 months ago | (#46444693)

That's all very interesting, except that all animals only borrow water - they give it back in the form of water vapor when they breathe, sweat (for some) and pee.

Exactly, water is a renewable resource and extremely recyclable. It's not like the water used to produce any food is all lost to that food. What the food item doesn't retain is passed on to something else.

Re:Animals only borrow water. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444721)

That's all very interesting, except that all animals only borrow water

That's how to easily tell the difference between an actual conservation issue and a vegan bean-curd propaganda story.

If they are contesting the use of human-drinkable water being wasted on livestock, it might have valid conservation issues. Or if the subject has to do with draining rivers or lakes for irrigation, that could also be a serious concern.
If they are claiming that livestock 'use up' water, it's rotten tofu.

(bean-curd and rotten tofu used as vegan alternatives to bullshit)

Even more interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444547)

Even more interesting is the total waste that humans use. We should stop producing them and start killing them off.

Message from a farm in Somerset, UK.... (2)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | about 7 months ago | (#46444561)

Does anyone need some water?

Re:Message from a farm in Somerset, UK.... (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | about 7 months ago | (#46444853)

So true, it's extremely difficult to move water from places that have too much to places that lack. It makes water a very regionally priced commodity. I thought the Saudis were learning how to move icebergs. What ever happened to that?

Oblig XKCD (recent) (4, Informative)

scorp1us (235526) | about 7 months ago | (#46444567)

Land Mammals [xkcd.com]

Most alfalfa growers are welfare queens. (5, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 months ago | (#46444575)

Most farmers who grow alfalfa are those who got water at throw away prices back in 1920s/1930s when the Hoover dam was being built, when they pumped the Colorado river over the Sierra Neveda to irrigate the water starved central valley. Then through political action, through law suits and by claiming these as their "right" they have been taking water and much below market prices and wasting it all in stupid crops like alfalfa. If they paid market rates, we could just shrug and leave it to free markets. But after taking in all that water pumped by the government, at far below cost, at far below market rates, they turn around and claim to be "freedom lovers", "get the government out of my hair", "government never creates value" "taxation is theft" libertarians.

Re:Most alfalfa growers are welfare queens. (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | about 7 months ago | (#46444765)

Most farmers who grow alfalfa are those who got water at throw away prices back in 1920s/1930s when the Hoover dam was being built, when they pumped the Colorado river over the Sierra Neveda to irrigate the water starved central valley. ...

Not that I'm completely disagreeing with you but you do realize you are arguing against government compensation for it's wrong doing. Additionally, by implication, you are right about the central valley using more water than it would have normally gotten and the subsidies are much to blame for that. Those subsidies also help produce a lot of vegetables that would not otherwise grow in that region.

Be consistent ;)

Does it matter? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#46444583)

Does the high water usage matter?

Re:Does it matter? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#46444691)

Good question.
In principle, the economy should be able to solve any problems.
If water gets too expensive, meat will get even more expensive and well, people will have to stop eating meat.

Let the market decide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444601)

What about simply pricing water what it is worth? Currently, many resources (such as water) are priced negligibly, most of which includes the costs of delivering water. If water is so valuable in a certain region, price it quite high. If alfalfa becomes too expensive to grow and export, people will stop doing it. If meat becomes too expensive, people will alter their diets. Long-winded appeals to emotion are unlikely to engender much behavioral change at the moment.

...or just (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444613)

don't grow cattle in california.

Health Benefits Too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444643)

There are health benefits derived from moving to a diet rich in unrefined plants [naturaliq.com] .

Granted, some of this is not just avoiding meat, but many of the refined and processed carbohydrate items that have found a symbiotic niche between our cravings and profitable marketing, production and legislative marketplaces (cheez doodle agricultural economy).

"Exporting" water? (2, Informative)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 7 months ago | (#46444657)

now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year

Can someone explain to me how this sentence even makes sense? It seems to imply that the sate is somehow losing water forever by shipping it abroad. But when the water is consumed, whether in China or California, it will eventually make its way back out into the Pacific Ocean, which is the ultimate source for all of California's water. So once the water is used to grow a crop, for the purpose of California's future wetness, it doesn't really matter one iota where the crop ultimately gets consumed.

Re:"Exporting" water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444925)

Because the water used to irrigate the alfalfa could be put to better use elsewhere.

Re:"Exporting" water? (1)

cryptizard (2629853) | about 7 months ago | (#46444935)

Maybe it takes a long time to make it's way back? Although some back of the envelope calculations suggest that 100 billion gallons is less than .1% of the rainfall that California gets in a year, so I'm not sure what the overall effect is. It would be nice to get some actual climate scientists to weigh in.

Re:"Exporting" water? (2)

coinreturn (617535) | about 7 months ago | (#46444953)

now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year

Can someone explain to me how this sentence even makes sense? It seems to imply that the sate is somehow losing water forever by shipping it abroad. But when the water is consumed, whether in China or California, it will eventually make its way back out into the Pacific Ocean, which is the ultimate source for all of California's water. So once the water is used to grow a crop, for the purpose of California's future wetness, it doesn't really matter one iota where the crop ultimately gets consumed.

It should probably read "now exporting some 100 billion gallons of fresh water. When we run out of fresh water, the real wars begin.

Take a lesson from Ronald Reagan not Jimmy Carter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444665)

The path to prosperity was not conservation like in the Jimmy Carter era. We need to build up infrastructure and utilize water more effectively. Apply technology to create plentiful energy and water resources.

End farming subsidies (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444685)

artificial market controls keep the price of meat low, so we consume excess amounts.
as the price rises, consumption will go down and the problem solves itself. meat will turn from main course to side dish real fast.

i never understood the fixation with 100% meat. meatloaf > pure beef. people were hyperventilating online when taco bell announced their "meat" was 40% meat.

And the water practically disappears, right? (1)

d33tah (2722297) | about 7 months ago | (#46444697)

I don't get the problem. Do these guys really believe that whatever water you put into creating food is completely gone and will never appear again on this planet?

Re:And the water practically disappears, right? (3, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 months ago | (#46444791)

How do you propose getting potable water back to where it was?

Per ton? Also: water used up. Gone forever. (4, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#46444713)

Why aren't they measuring per metabolizable calorie instead of ton? Meat is more energy dense than a head of lettuce.
Also, water consumed by plants and creatures isn't lost forever. Sure, the bonds are cracked to make hydrocarbons, but the H and the O still exists. It's not like our bodies perform nuclear reactions.

Re:Per ton? Also: water used up. Gone forever. (1)

cryptizard (2629853) | about 7 months ago | (#46444949)

Not more dense than sugar beets though, which take less than 1% of the water per ton.

NO (0, Flamebait)

DaMattster (977781) | about 7 months ago | (#46444719)

I have a very difficult time believing this. This sounds like junk, alarmist science. The problems are more than just meat. We cannot even begin to understand what impact human beings have on the environment. We can really only speculate and postulate. We do not really understand the weather, which is only a part of the climate system. Anyone that claims to be an expert on climate, I raise an eyebrow. This does not mean that we should not be better stewards of our home. Conservation is wise and prudent.

There's another option (2)

nurd68 (235535) | about 7 months ago | (#46444809)

My family doesn't buy beef because the half dozen or so deer we kill per year more than meets our needs.

Meat today - Soybeans tomorrow (1, Flamebait)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 7 months ago | (#46444819)

I'm sure the overuse of water has more to do with people insisting on living in areas where there isn't enough water to sustain the population or land use than growing crops explicitly for feed.

Farms do not shut down voluntarily. If they aren't using the water to grow alfalfa then they would just use it to grow a different cash crop.

I think the report is a creative way to further the vegan agenda.

Most of you would rather die... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444821)

... than go vegan.

After all, you would have admit you've been doing something wrong all your life. Not just wrong, but atrocious. You would have to tell your 'friends' (LOL) that you actually care about animals and that would mean you aren't really a man any more (LOL), you might actually have to start caring about others, and you've been pretending to that all your life, and you know you can't actually feel the suffering of others. (Otherwise you'd have gone vegan years ago).

Look at the laughable responses here, knee jerk reactions from little children pretending to be adults - "Oh, what will I do without meat! Let's poo poo the science and do anything to bait and switch, just avoid the question altogether."

The suffering caused by such arrogance and selfishness is beyond comprehension - especially for the selfish fools who actually CAUSE it all, by refusing to even THINK for five minutes about the consequences of their actions.

Stupid "Activist" Junk Science (0, Flamebait)

blcamp (211756) | about 7 months ago | (#46444837)

(I've got karma, and I know how to burn it. So here goes some.)

The same idiots that trot out this junk science and "suggest" that we all go vegan, are the same damn fools that would have us all "save the environment" by putting corn into our gas tanks; and turn California's most fertile farming area turn into a desert in order to "save" some freaking minnows that actually need MORE water, not less.

The thing that really needs to be studied is what the hell happens to areas where the so-called "intelligencia" are allowed to run amok with their foolish ideas.

Near where I live, we have just such a place. It's called Detroit.

Stop Busting Dams (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46444883)

If California wants to solve its water issues. Stop Busting Dams.
Build more. Kill off that @#$! fish and be done with it.

Maybe... stop growing food in a desert? (5, Insightful)

jnaujok (804613) | about 7 months ago | (#46444911)

In case no one has noticed, California is a desert (or nearly one) for most of its area. Before the farm subsidy act of the 1950's, no one grew food crops in California, and no one raised cattle. Then, after subsidies were based on your distance from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where they get 30-40" of rain a year, suddenly California became *the* address for raising food. When you can raise dairy cattle at a loss, milk them at a loss, and produce a gallon of milk for $6, and still sell it for $2 wholesale -- and the government ensures you're making a profit by handing you a $5 a gallon subsidy, of course you're going to raise cattle and farm in California.

California has to drain the Colorado river, and the showsheds of something like 1,000,000 hectares of mountains to even get close to their water needs on a good year. In the meantime, farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and the rest of the heartland are all collapsing into bankruptcy, unable to compete with the ever-increasing subsidies bought by the legislatures of California with its 50+ congressmen and electoral votes.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?