America’s appetite for beef is jeopardising the world’s water supply, the Prince of Wales said during a visit to the US.
In a speech in Washington, the Prince said that the need for vast amounts of irrigation in industrialised food production was threatening to deplete reserves of the “magical substance we have taken for granted for so long”.
“For every pound of beef produced in the industrial system, it takes two thousand gallons of water,” he told the Future of Food conference at Georgetown University.
“That is a lot of water and there is plenty of evidence that the Earth cannot keep up with the demand.”
Americans eat more than 41kg of beef a year on average, according to the UN, almost twice that consumed by Britons and four times the international average.
The Prince called for an overhaul of food production, championing organic and sustainable techniques, and also criticised the US for allowing the destruction of vast regions of its rural land.
“Here in the United States I am told one acre is lost to development every minute of every day, which means that since 1982 an area the size of Indiana has been built over,” he told the 700–strong audience. “Again, in the US, soil is being washed away 10 times faster than the Earth can replenish it.”
Five days after the marriage of Prince William, the Prince said his address made “a change from making embarrassing speeches about my eldest son”.