Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.
Water is embedded in everything we eat. There’s water inside a banana, a leaf of lettuce, an ear of corn — but the most water, by far, is in meat. In part because water goes into corn and soybeans – and then animals eat those feeds. So swearing off meat should be a great way to lower your water footprint, right? Well… not exactly.
Some corn and soybeans are grown where water is plentiful; some require irrigation – sometimes in water-scarce places. New research from experts at the University of Minnesota and the University of New Mexico analyzed the embedded irrigation water in U.S. chicken, pork, beef, and ethanol by tracing the water through the supply chain – identifying meat and fuel “fed” corn and soybeans grown with irrigated water in water-scarce areas.Associated journal article: Kate A Brauman et al (2020). “Unique water scarcity footprints and water risks in US meat and ethanol supply chains identified via subnational commodity flows.” Environmental Research Letters 15 105018. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9a6a [open access]