Drought And Rising Food Prices Could Mean We All Eat Less Meat

Thursday, August 30, 2012
By Paul Martin

Natalie Wolchover
Aug. 30, 2012

It simply takes too much water to grow a steak. In a new report, leading water scientists say the human population would have to switch to an almost entirely vegetarian diet by 2050 to avoid catastrophic global food and water shortages.

“There will not be enough water available … to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends,” Malin Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute stated in the report. By their estimation, there should be just enough water to go around if humans derive just 5 percent of their calories from animal-based foods by midcentury, instead of the 20 percent of calories that they currently get from meat, eggs and dairy.

It’s a simple numbers game: Cattle, for example, consume a shocking 17 times more grain calories than they produce as meat calories. All that lost grain (which humans could have eaten) requires water. “Producing food requires more water than any other human activity — and meat production is very water-intensive,” Josh Weinberg, the institute’s communications officer, told Life’s Little Mysteries.

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