The hidden water resource use behind meat and dairy

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

This paper reviews recent research carried out regarding the hidden water resource use behind meat and dairy production. First, the water

footprint concept is introduced, an indicator increasingly used worldwide to assess the water resource implications of consumption and trade.

Second, results from recent research are summarized, indicating that for assessing the water footprint of meat and dairy, it is most relevant to carefully consider both the feed conversion effi ciency when raising animals and the feed composition. Third, the water footprint of animal products is compared with the water footprint of crops. Next, the water footprint of a meat-based diet is compared with the water footprint of a vegetarian diet. It is then shown that understanding the relationship between food consumption and the use of freshwater resources is no longer just a local issue. Water has become a global resource, whereby, because of international trade, food consumption in one place often affects the water demand in another place. Finally, an argument is made for product transparency in the food sector, which would allow us to better link individual food products to associated water impacts, which in turn could drive efforts to reduce those impacts.

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