After watching a new documentary called “Cowspiracy” (which I highly recommend to anyone), I did a Google search to see what type of response the film has garnered. One of the first articles I stumbled upon, was from Beef Magazine (link: http://beefmagazine.com/blog/why-ranchers-should-care-about-documentary-cowspiracy), it’s an article written by Amanda Radke…in which she stresses the importance of watching the film, to have counter facts ready to “educate” people on the “real numbers”.
The article attempts to persuade the reader that the beef industry is sustainable and working hard on water conservation. She goes on to say that, while she hasn’t seen the film, she guarantees that the statistics that “Cowspiracy” uses are highly inflated. One of the things the documentary film does best, is visually showing just how much water is wasted by eating meat, compared to a plant-based diet and other water uses.
In order to prove her point, Radke attempts to compare beef production to the production of t-shirts, new cars and water wasted by the city of New York (see visual below).
Silly comparisons of course, that aren’t at all relatable. However, the article has been shared over 1,000 times on Facebook and will be one of the first articles to appear in a Google search. So I felt it was important to break down the numbers in a rebuttal article.
Please note, that the film’s statistics show that an average hamburger can use upward of 600 gallons of water. According to Radke, it takes 441 gallons to produce one pound of beef. However, her statistics are coming from Beef Check Off, which is basically an organization designed to promote beef products and consumption. So we’ll assume it’s a load of manure…BUT for the sake of those on the side of beef, I’ll even use their numbers and skew this debate in their favor!
Now let’s break it down:
441 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Let’s be honest and say that would make four hamburgers.
For an average meat-eater, they will consume about one burger a day (some may eat far more or have a larger burger than 1/4 pound, and some might eat a burger every couple of days..so to be fair, let’s just even it out to 1/4 pound per day).
That means that each burger consumed wastes 110.25 gallons of water each day.
Now to compare that to her statistics… First up is a cotton t-shirt -taken at her word- uses 713 gallons of water for one shirt. Hypothetically, let’s say I buy that shirt and on average I wear a shirt about once a week. I’ll have that shirt for a minimum of at least three years. So 3×52 is 156 and we now divide 713 by 156 and we get?
4.5! So if you wear that shirt once a week, you’re wasting 4.5 gallons of water each time you wear it, or 0.64 gallons if you factor that into a daily basis.
4.5 or 0.64…either way you slice it.
Second up is a brand new car! Which of course is ridiculous to even compare in the first place, because while most people can afford a hamburger, most cannot afford a new car! But, let’s do the math!
I recently leased a new car, which I will have for at least three years. According to her statistics, that car wasted 39,090 gallons of water. Now even though the car will probably be on the road for 15-20 years, for fun, let’s do the math for ten years.
So 10×365 is 3650. And now we divide 39,090 by 3650 and we get?
10.7 gallons. So even if the car was only in use for ten years, the car used FAR less water than just one hamburger…keep in mind, a car is your primary mode of transportation, where as a hamburger fills you up for a few hours.
And now for her crown jewel of a statistic -according to her- the people of NYC (though probably most of the water wasted is not directly their fault) waste 36 million gallons of water due to water leaks.
What she fails to account for is the 8.3 million people that live in NYC. So if we divide that 36 million, by the 8.3 million that live there, what do we have?
4.33 gallons wasted per day, per person. Which is still 106 gallons less, per day, per person than a single hamburger.
According to Radke, if we really cared about water conservation, we should stop wearing clothes, driving cars and using water altogether.
The real numbers show us that if we stop eating beef, we’d save 110 gallons of water a day, per person…times that by the amount of Americans (314 million) and we’d save 34,540,000,000 billion gallons of water, per day in America. Allow me to remind you, that’s using the beef industry’s numbers.
The true facts and statistics show that cutting meat out of our diets, would be the single biggest water conservation effort our planet has ever known. Of course that doesn’t even factor in the other benefits including: saving our rain-forests, reducing water & air pollution, cutting methane emissions, and curbing animal welfare issues.
Here is an updated graphic, with the actual water usage on a per day, per person basis (the way these numbers need to be shown, because no one wears a t-shirt or drives a new car just one time…unlike a hamburger).
If any representative from the meat/beef industry wants to challenge me on what I’ve written, I’ll happily accept an invitation to a debate.