Meat From Animals Raised in Water-Scarce Areas Can Affect Virtual Water
The video below traces the virtual water — or embedded water — it takes to produce US meat and ethanol to better understand potential risks in water-scarce areas. The video explains the results of a study by University of Minnesota researchers who looked at water use in domestic meat supply chains in which the vast majority of water is used to grow feed crops, like corn and soy beans, for livestock.
By tracing these crops to individual facilities, the scientists were able to estimate the irrigation water embedded and calculate blue water footprints (indexed to scarcity) for meat and ethanol. For instance, beef processed in wetter locations, such as Iowa or Illinois, do not have water impacts as big as drier locations, such as chicken processed in California and pork processed in Oklahoma. This is primarily due to the reliance on scarce irrigation water to grow animal feed crops in dry locations as compared to locations where rainfall is prevalent.
The researchers hope to this study will provide opportunities for producers and consumers of meat and animal products to make wiser decisions in terms of management, investment and sustainability. For more, watch the video or read the study, “Unique water scarcity footprints and water risks in US meat and ethanol supply chains identified via subnational commodity flows.”