top of page

Factory Farming and Water Usage

Freshwater Use

In addition to polluting the air and degrading natural lands, industrial animal agriculture uses an enormous amount of freshwater. In the US, it is responsible for 55 percent of water consumption, whereas domestic water use — the water used in households — makes up only 5 percent. Globally, factory farming uses 16 percent of the planet’s freshwater.

Here’s another way to think about it: it takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, while most fruit, vegetables, and plant-based proteins require between 15 to a couple hundred gallons of water per pound to produce. Producing cow milk requires twice as much water

“Most large companies have policies to reduce water use and pollution. But some of the largest meat companies in the US lack measures such as water reduction targets, watershed protection plans and incentives for suppliers to conserve water.” —Madison McVan, Investigate Midwest as producing almond milk — and almond milk is the most water-intensive plant-based milk alternative. When you scale those differences, it makes an enormous impact. "

By eating plant-based, it’s estimated that one person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water per year.

Environmentally-conscious individuals may try to reduce their water usage by doing things like taking shorter showers, but dietary choices have a much larger impact. If you switch from a hamburger to a veggie burger one time, you’ll save as much water as not showering for two entire months. As the world’s water supply continues to shrink, conserving our freshwater is critical. Is water use in animal agriculture sustainable?

In short: no. The tremendous amount of water needed to grow crops for feed, clean facilities, raise animals, and slaughter them is using an alarming amount of the earth’s limited freshwater resources. And evidence suggests most meatpacking organizations don’t ensure sustainable water practices in their supply chains.



bottom of page