How Much Water is Used to Make Your Food?

World Water Day was March 22 and since then I’ve been seeing water statistics everywhere. I knew that one pound of beef took a lot of water to produce, but I didn’t know the exact figure and my wildest guess was 500 gallons. Could it possibly take that much? If you grew up in a household anything like mine, we had gallon milk containers and my mom would reuse them in the house or garden for various projects. One was used for watering the houseplants and it seemed I could water several plants with one of those. So as I tried to imagine hundreds of those filled up waiting to water my mom’s plants, I came up with my magical 500 gallons. I was off. Way off. It takes 1,799 gallons [1] to produce a pound of beef. One pound! I have a hard time getting my head around that.

Some of the other products we consume take quite a bit of water, some surprised me in their water-conservancy, but none surprised me more than chocolate. On gallons to make a pound, here’s how the other foods fare:

Goat – 127

Sheep – 731

Pork – 576

Chicken – 468

Milk – 880

Wine – 1,008

Beer – 689

Coffee – 880

Tea  – 128

Rice – 449

Potato – 119

Leather – 1,096 – For a Half Pound!

Apple – 18 – For one Apple

Egg – 53 – For one Egg

Chocolate – 3,170

Bread – 11

Beef – 1,799

Now, I’m probably not going to stop drinking wine and coffee, or stop eating chocolate (do I get extra coffee and chocolate credit for not eating beef?), but I am likely to think about how my eating actions affect our planet and steps I can take to conserve more water. Just to be safe for the moment, I think I’ll go snack on some bread and tea.

- Jocelyn Broyles

[1] All water consumption statistics from National Geographic’s “The Hidden Water We Use“, sourced form

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John S.
Past Member 2 years ago

I'll have to eat more goat.

alex l.
alex l.3 years ago

70% of our fresh water consumption goes to meat "farming"

Sri V.
sri v.3 years ago

Good to know. One would like to see data about nuts, fruits and vegetables as well as some of the processes foods
And about certain other products like eg an automobile

Kelly B.
Kelly B.3 years ago

wow, suddenly wine is not looking so great but all the wild game in my freezer does!

Judith Emerson
Judith Emerson4 years ago

Wow! What a comeupance! Thank you! :/

Geetha Subramaniam

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Great in-your-face info!

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam4 years ago

thanks for sharing

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.