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Red meat and water use

How much water does it take for cattle to gain 1kg? 73% less than it did in 1985.

In the last five years alone, livestock producers have reduced the water used in raising beef cattle by 18% to average 400 litres per liveweight kilogram.

They have been able to do this by applying a range of sustainable farming practices to conserve water. These include:

  • Reducing irrigation for pasture production
  • Capping free flowing artesian bores to reduce evaporative losses
  • Genetic and breeding programs to increase growth rates.

Since 2017, the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework has tracked the industry’s water efficiency. You can read about the industry’s progress, performance and trends in their Annual update.

Eating meat has less impact on water scarcity than other foods

Red meat consumption contributed only 3.7% of the total dietary water-scarcity footprint (the potential impact associated with the quantity of water consumption).

The results suggest that eating fresh meat is less impactful to water scarcity than most other food groups, even cereals. In addition, water stress (when the demand for water exceeds the available amount) has decreased 61%, meaning red meat producers are continuing to adapt their practices in areas where water availability is limited.