I have a confession: I don’t eat steak. That makes me a bit of an oddity amongst friends and family, with the average American consumption of beef at around 57 pounds in 2011
. In truth, I don’t eat steak largely because I just don’t like the taste. However, there are also some very real environmental reasons why it makes sense to think carefully about what we eat.
Here at the World Water Week
meetings in Stockholm, everyone is talking about the inextricable links between fresh water and food (the theme of this year’s conference). In fact, every bite of food we eat has a virtual water footprint.
In the case of steak, some estimate it takes roughly 1,850 gallons of water to bring a piece of steak to your plate. In comparison, it takes about 81 gallons of water to create a drumstick of chicken — which I do eat! (Learn more about the water footprint of your food in this report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (PDF–2.76 MB)).
So why does it take so much water to produce a steak? Part of it has to do with what cows eat. In addition to the water they drink, cows also consume water indirectly through their diet — through the water it takes to grow grass, corn or soy feed. That’s one reason why CI partners with a number of agribusiness and food companies on their commodity sourcing standards, which typically address a range of environmental and social issues, including water conservation. One example of this work is our partnership with Nestlé
to develop Responsible Sourcing Guidelines (RSGs) for soy, intended to address a number of environmental impact areas in the company’s supply chain.