Saturday, February 09, 2008
China's growing appetite for meat will strain world water supplies
China's rapid industrialization and increasing population, along with a growing preference for meat on the dinner table, are creating water shortages that will have world repercussions. In coming decades, China will have to rely on food imports to meet demand.
China is home to 21% of the world's population. Its economy has grown at the fastest rate in recent world history, about 8% per year over the last two decades, says Junguo Liu, an environmental scientist in Switzerland.
During this period of unprecedented growth, the consumption of grains in China has remained steady, even dropping a little. But the consumption of meat in China has more than quadrupled since 1980. The production of meat requires much more water per serving than any other kind of food. Even though meat and other animal products made up only 16% of the typical Chinese diet in 2003, those foods accounted for more than one-half of the country's food-related water consumption, report Liu and colleague Hubert Savenije of Delft University in an upcoming Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.
How does the Chinese diet compare to the American diet?
Food-related water consumption per capita in the United States is about 3,074 cubic meters per year, almost four times the Chinese figure. The water needed to produce the typical U.S. citizen's consumption of meat alone far exceeds that required to produce the average Chinese citizen's entire diet.
Why is that? According to Danielle Nierenberg of Worldwatch Institute, Americans eat 248 lbs of meat per person per year, far more per capita than any other country in the world.
The world of the future will not be able to support a growing population eating more and more meat. Already more than 1/3 of the world's population live in regions where water is considered scarce.
Keywords :: China, water shortage, meat industry, American meat consumption, population growth
Sid Perkins. "A thirst for meat." Science News. January 19, 2008.
Danielle Nierenberg. "Happier meals: rethinking the global meat industry." Worldwatch Institute. 2005. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/819