Meat companies aren’t the best environmental stewards when it comes to water use

Meat production is a water-intensive industry from, well, snout to tail. Water is integral in everything from raising crops for livestock feed to hosing down packing plants, and companies are falling short in ensuring their water use is environmentally sustainable. In a new report, Ceres, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, found that across four industries with the highest exposure to water risks—meat, agricultural products, beverages, and packaged food—meat corporations ranked the lowest on average. The Missouri Independent reports that meat companies often lack “water reduction targets, watershed protection plans and incentives for suppliers to conserve water.” For example, the nation’s second-largest pork producer, JBS USA, does not push any sustainable water-use requirements on its suppliers outside of what’s required by law, and it has more than 100 facilities located in areas graded “medium to high risk” or “high risk” when it comes to water quality and availability. You can lead a meat packer to environmental water stewardship, but you can’t make them drink. —Matthew Sedacca