European Livestock Voice: Beyond The Headlines #MeatTheFacts

How Much Water for 1 Kg of Meat?

It is often said that 15,000 litres of water are needed to produce 1kg of meat. This is an example of a shock statement used to make good headlines, but the calculations are too often misunderstood and misquoted. With more than 90% of water consumed by livestock being ‘green water’ coming from rainfall, scientists calculate that 1kg of beef would remove around 50 litres of fresh water.

This figure was first released in 2002, when the “water footprint” concept was established, following the growing popularity of the ecological footprint indicators. Arjen Hoekstra, whilst working at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, created the water footprint as a metric to measure the amount of water consumed and polluted to produce goods and services along their whole supply chain. Interest in the water footprint increased after its introduction in academic literature. The Water Footprint Network is working on harmonising and promoting the “water footprint” concept.

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A Farmer Cares More About Animals than Money

Any livestock farmer will tell you that animal welfare is a top priority, especially on larger farms. Without happy, well-looked-after animals, you cannot make a living from livestock farming. So, like with any business, making money is essential, but livestock intensification is not about skipping over the basics for animal welfare.

The main goal of any farmer is to generate an income while producing high-quality products that are market-conform. And livestock farming in Europe includes a wide diversity of practices and production methods. So why is it that one term, “intensive farming“, is so often used to portray a negative picture of farming?

The livestock sector has for some time tried to develop a more neutral terminology that could apply to modern, resource-efficient production models. But there will always be difficulties with trying to move beyond the buzz words, especially in media reporting terms.

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Goodbye Cows: Is a World Without Livestock the Solution?

The total elimination of livestock farming is a triumph for animal rights fanatics and some urban environmentalists. But is it the solution to all our problems? Are the biggest polluters on the planet not the industries, nor the fossil fuels, but the cows? Currently, cows seem to be public enemy number one in the media, the only cause of climate change.

In the exciting film “Goodbye Cows“, Prof. Frédéric Leroy from the Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology Group of the University of Brussels sheds light on one of the most complex and controversial issues that we face. “Today, cows are seen as the most destructive animals for the planet”, – Prof. Leroy begins in his interview – “They emit greenhouse gases, they use a lot of soil and a lot of water, and they compete with us for food. This misinformation is influencing policy choices at high levels. Just think of the EAT-Lancet diet, proposed as the best diet for human and planet health. It is a semi-vegetarian diet with negligible quantities of meat, insufficient to guarantee the coverage of needs. Even taxes on meat and the exclusion of meat from school menus, canteens or public events have been proposed, inviting toward a completely vegetarian menu. But if we implement this diet worldwide, it will be a disaster“.

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