- The total water footprint of an animal product is generally larger when obtained from a grazing system than when produced from an industrial system, because of a larger green water footprint component [i.e. rain]. The blue and grey water footprints of animal products are largest for industrial systems (with an exception for chicken products). From a freshwater perspective, animal products from grazing systems are therefore to be preferred above products from industrial systems (Section 3.3).
- The water footprint of any animal product is larger than the water footprint of a wisely chosen crop product with equivalent nutritional value (Section 3.4).
- 29% of the total water footprint of the agricultural sector in the world is related to the production of animal products. One third of the global water footprint of animal production is related to beef cattle (Section 3.5)
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One drop in the illustration = 50 liters of virtual water
The water footprint of a product (a commodity, good or service) is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually made. I refers to the amount of ater used in the various steps of the production chain.
Beef (grain-fed): 4650 L water for 1 steak (300 g)
Milk: 1000 L/L of milk
Cheese: 2500 L/lb (500 g)
Barley: 650 L/lb
Wheat: 650 L/lb
Sorghum: 1400 L/lb
Millet: 2500 L/lb
Tea: 90 L/pot (750 mL)
Coffee: 840 L/pot
Burger: 2500 L/burger (150 g beef)
Source of stats: WaterFootprint.org
You can buy the poster here: Virtual Water
*NOTE: Chocolate has an even higher water footprint than beef, at 24,000 L/kg (compared to beef’s 15,500 L/kg).
Chocolate: 24,000 liters/kilogram (L/kg)
Beef: 15,500 L/kg
Cheese: 5,000 L/kg
Pork: 4,800 L/kg
Olives: 4,400 L/kg
Chicken: 3,900 L/kg
Rice: 3,400 L/kg
Groundnuts (in shell): 3,100 L/kg
Sugar: 1,500 L/kg
Wheat Bread: 1,300 L/kg
Cow’s Milk: 250 L/glass
Cabbage: 200 L/kg
Coffee: 140 L/cup
Lettuce: 130 L/kg
Wine: 120 L/glass
Beer: 75 L/glass
Tea: 30 L/cup
Source: The Water Footprint of Food by Arjen Y. Hoekstra, University of Twente, the Netherlands. 2011.