Water Footprint

By Dean L. Jones

Since what we eat makes up more than 2/3 of our total water footprint, as California endures a serious water drought, everyone should consider how much water is required to produce their respective food choices.  Clearly water is vital for fruits and vegetables to grow, all the same a loaf of bread requires about 240-gallons of water, and a pound of cheese takes about 382-gallons.  So a simple cheese sandwich takes about 56-gallons of water, and when you add a small bag of potato chips that is an additional 12-gallon supply of water.

Analogous to the sport of boxing adage, ‘pound-for-pound’ meat has a much higher water footprint than vegetables/fruits, grains or beans.  Such as, on average it takes 1,800-gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.  Primarily because of the huge amount of water needed to grow the grass, forage and feed for a beef steer.  Plus, it needs water to drink, cleanse, and production processing to reach our plates.  For instance, about 147-gallons of water is used to produce just one pound of corn, and in a few months a beef steer can eat 1,000+ pounds of feed.

Many people have received medical advice to eat less red meat, but overall little change in eating patterns has come about, since the average American consumes roughly 167-pounds of meat a year, which is three times the global average.  What is good is how businesses are reducing water to stay competitive where fast food chains are making an effort to go all natural food ingredients on their respective menus.

Taco Bell is revising 95% of its core food items to remove additives like added Trans-fats and additional artificial preservatives and additives.  The other 5% of items sold include sugary drinks or co-branded products such as those made with Doritos.  Nonetheless, Taco Bell’s avocado ranch dressing and red tortilla chips will lose dyes that deepened the color of the food.

Taco Bell will remove high-fructose corn syrup from their variety of food mixes, which is the key ingredient that has gotten so many customers addicted to certain items, not to mention their discontinuance of black pepper flavor and begin using real black pepper in their beef.  Other food chains like Subway, Paneras, McDonald’s and Chipotle also have gotten rid of ingredients in certain items that use genetically modified organisms and chemicals.

By eating more vegetables, grains and beans and eating less meat, we consume less virtual water.  In short, the more meat, dairy and processed foods we eat, the more water needed to deliver the final product.

Real water equates to sustaining a healthy life, especially when it comes down to preventing minerals, calcium, oxalate and sometimes uric acid build-up in the urine that will ultimately form hard crystal kidneys stones.  Consume water wisely and in doing so enjoy living SugarAlert!

Dean Jones is an Ethics Advocate, Southland Partnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), contributing his view on certain aspects of foodstuff.