Our Hot Mess: Food for thought about the food we eat without thought

Yes. I know. Even as a vegan, I know. Meat can be delicious.

It is hard to resist that Angus steak, grilled to perfection on the Fourth of July, especially when the whole family has gathered for a red, white, and blue barbecue complete with fireworks. And perhaps the reason it is difficult to resist is the blissful naiveness bubble we have become content with living in. But we can no longer afford to ignore the facts.

One quarter-pound burger uses about 450 gallons of water to make.

And the baffling thing? Agri-business doesn’t typically come up in a discussion concerning the environment. We get distracted talking about parts per million of carbon dioxide and how to take shorter showers and when to turn off lights to save electricity, but we are avoiding the topic that is a large factor of environmental distress. And that is the animal agriculture industry.

This diagram demonstrates the use of water in California, and although its data comes from one state, its sentiment applies nationally.

This figure -- 450 gallons -- can vary depending on the farm where “Bessie” was raised; it includes water costs for facility sanitation, drinking water, and crop irrigation.
But 450 gallons, that doesn’t truly mean anything for us suburbians who simply turn on a faucet and expect drinkable water, right? I suppose we could willing leave the statistics hung out to dry, but it will be exceedingly harder to do so.
Take California for example. This before and after shot speaks for itself:
Taken from "7 Powerful Photos Before And After The California Drought"
Originally from Getty Images
Remember that pie graph from earlier? Consider that half of the water in California is used for agri-business. Quite simply, this excessive meat and dairy consumption is not sustainable, and changes must be made.
Although it would be best if we all were to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, from a pragmatic standpoint, eating meat is so inextricably connected to the American psyche that universal vegetarianism is an unrealistic ideal... today. But imagine if we had a widespread decrease in animal product consumption, if we lowered the demand for those products. I am saying eat meat perhaps only once a day or a few times a week. Maybe bring back the “meatless Monday” mantra of World War II. Start trying to use almond milk with your cereal, or perhaps substitute eggs in a recipe with flax eggs, which honestly make the end result taste no different. My mom now primarily uses them in cooking and doesn’t think twice about it.
The inspiring thought is that we can help the current state of our environment by changing what we eat, and I challenge you to actively think about your contribution. Simply giving up meat for a day would conservatively save more than 400 gallons of water, enough to provide clean drinking water to 400 people. I challenge you to do it for a week. 2800 gallons of water. Improved freshwater resources. Fewer animals slaughtered. And those are only a couple of the many benefits. Let’s lower the demand for animal products one day and one vegetarian at a time.

Editor's Note: This is the first edition of a new column on LSNews.org entitled Climate Change: Our Hot Mess, written by Elke Arnesen, whose environmental protection efforts we chronicled here. This column will appear weekly every Tuesday. It reflects the opinion of the stated author, and not necessarily the opinion of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District, nor the LSNews.org editorial board or its advisor.

--Elke Arnesen, LSNews.org Columnist
Edited: BP

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