Plant foods consume more water than meat

wwf studio

dennis l

  • Eat vegan and vegetarian foods. more water than meat production
  • Many plant foods come from arid regions

Vegan and vegetarian foods use more water than meat and are more harmful to the environment at this point. Vegetarian organizations, however, criticize the current WWF study on water intake from plant-based foods.

Gland (Switzerland). A new study by the environmental organization WWF shows that plant-based foods use more water than is necessary to produce meat. At least at this point, vegan and vegetarian would be worse for the environment. However, the current study is heavily criticized by several vegetarian organizations.

Vegan and vegetarian foods are considered healthy and climate friendly. According to a recent study by the environmental protection organization WWF, this statement is only partially true, because most plant-based foods consume more water than animal-based foods.

Citrus and almonds, for example, require a lot of water to grow. Lemons, oranges and tangerines require about 6.9 cubic meters of water per person per year. This roughly corresponds to the amount of 58 bathtubs. For almonds it is about 2.5 cubic meters or 20 tubs of water.

According to the authors of the study, a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle causes an annual water consumption of about 39.4 cubic meters per year. According to this, people who eat meat only use about 29.2 cubic meters of water per person per year.

More than 2,000 liters of water per kilo of almonds

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the increased water use of a fully vegan or vegetarian diet is because most plant-based foods come from regions with little rainfall and therefore often require artificial irrigation. Animal feed cultivation uses much less water and also comes from regions where water is available in sufficient quantities and, unlike fruit and vegetables, does not have to be artificially irrigated.

California produces about 80 percent of the world’s almonds, making it the world leader in production. However, to produce a kilo of almonds there, an average of 2,028 liters of water is needed. The US state has been suffering from severe droughts and water shortages for years. Spain is also a major supplier of almonds, but also suffers from water shortages.

Politicians and companies must do more

“To reduce water consumption worldwide, politicians and companies must act,” says Daniela Hoffmann, sustainable nutrition expert at WWF Switzerland. As long as tons of food are imported from the arid regions of the world, the consumption of water will be very high.

In addition, the regional cultivation of plant-based foods in water-rich regions should be further promoted. “Because it’s still true: a plant-based diet is better for the planet!”

Criticism: Carnivores also consume almonds and citrus

According to the organization Swissveg, it has long been known that fruits and vegetables are grown in regions with scarce water and from there they are exported all over the world. “But the problem could be solved if more vegetables and fruits were grown here and in other regions with enough water,” explains CEO Renato Pichler. “Those who eat vegan food do less damage to the environment,” continues Pichler. Because areas that are used for animal feed could always be used for human food. More people could be fed with it than with meat produced from feed.


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