The Reality of Water Management & Raising Cattle

Myth:  Water management and raising cattle do not go hand in hand, and it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat.

The Facts: In reality, it takes 441 gallons of water to produce one pound of boneless beef.  Farmers and ranchers are committed to water conservation and have reduced the amount of water used to raise beef by 12 percent compared to 30 years ago.[1]

How do ranchers manage water conservation?

  • Like the majority of food and products produced across the world, raising beef requires the use of natural resources like land, energy, and of course water. Today, beef is produced using fewer natural resources, including water, than ever before.

Water management at work:

Ranchers like Gary and Sue Price of 77 Ranch in Blooming Grove, Texas work to optimize water quality through conversion of cropland to wetland. The conversion minimizes sediment loading, erosion and other water quality issues.  The effectiveness of their conservation efforts was proven in 2011 when they were able to sustain their entire herd with their available forage and water resources.

As ranchers work to reduce their use of resources, it’s also important to note that the 441 gallons of water used actually includes the water animals drink, water used to irrigate pasture land that the cattle graze, water used to grow crops that the cattle are fed and the water used in processing the beef.

How much water does it require to produce other everyday items?

  • In comparison, 441 gallons of water is a fraction of what is used to produce other everyday items.

While one pound of boneless beef requires 441 gallons of water to produce, a cotton t-shirt requires 713 gallons, a new car requires 39,090 gallons and 36 gallons of water is leaked from the New York City water supply system every day!

[1] J.L. Capper, The environmental impact of beef production in the United States: 1977 Compared with 2007. J ANIM SCI2011, 89:4249-4261.

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