Farmers have been left furious after water regulator Ofwat urged shoppers to cut their meat consumption to save water.
The body, which polices water companies in England and Wales, tweeted that going one day a week without meat could make a ‘big difference’ to an individual’s water footprint.
As part of a ‘Water Saving Week’ campaign, Ofwat’s official Twitter account posted an infographic claiming it takes 15,415 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef, but failed to point out 98 per cent of this volume refers to the water footprint of the feed for the animals.
It’s @Waterwise’s #WaterSavingWeek and all this week we’ll be sharing water saving facts and tips. Today is #MeatFreeMonday! Did you know…the majority of water used worldwide is in the production and consumption of goods and services, especially food? #Factoftheday pic.twitter.com/Jn3r2QIfcI— Ofwat (@Ofwat)
It’s @Waterwise’s #WaterSavingWeek and all this week we’ll be sharing water saving facts and tips. Today is #MeatFreeMonday! Did you know…the majority of water used worldwide is in the production and consumption of goods and services, especially food? #Factoftheday pic.twitter.com/Jn3r2QIfcI— Ofwat (@Ofwat) April 29, 2019
Drinking water, service water and feed mixing water account for only 1.1 per cent, 0.8 per cent and 0.03 per cent respectively, proving grass-fed beef and lamb of the kind produced in the UK is much more water efficient.
Meat promotion body Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) has described the claims as ‘misleading nonsense’.
Chief executive Gwyn Howells said: “If consumers choose to eat meat reared mainly on natural grass and produced to high standards of environmental sustainability, such as Welsh Beef and Welsh Lamb, they need have no concerns over the amount of water required to produce it.”
Other water companies, including United Utilities and Welsh Water, have tweeted similar claims as part of the Water Saving Week campaign.
Farmers Guardian understands Welsh Water has already apologised to upland farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, admitting the information was ‘misleading’.
Defra chief scientist Professor Ian Boyd has also come under fire for ‘liking’ Ofwat’s tweet.
Speaking at today’s NFU Council meeting, the union’s livestock board chairman Richard Findlay challenged Ofwat to concentrate on fixing leaks instead of ‘churning this tosh’.
An Ofwat spokesman said the campaign was ‘not anti-meat’, but refused to be drawn on whether they were aware the statistic used was widely contested.
“England and Wales face many challenges in ensuring we will have enough water in the future, and Waterwise’s Water Saving Week is a great way to highlight how we tackle them,” the spokesman added.