Letter to the editor: Lack of understanding in a scientific discussion

Letter to the editor


I read Friday’s column regarding the defense of the cattle industry, “Drought Bout,” and it made me so furious I had to respond.

In the interest of full disclosure let me start by saying for lunch today I ate a Coug Burger, which for those of you who don’t know, includes both cow and pig.

It was delicious. But Ms. Harris is still completely wrong about water use. She, like most people, shows a disturbing lack of scientific understanding.

She acknowledges that beef takes water, but counters that so do vegetables. This is true. Let’s look at a better measure.

Gallons of water per calorie produced. The following numbers are all conservative ranges based on varied sources. Beef is 500 to 1000 calories per pound; wheat is 1000 to 1500 calories per pound. Beef takes 2500 to 5000 gallons of water per pound to produce; wheat takes 25 to 150 gallons per pound to produce. This means best case for beef is 2.5 gallons of water per calorie, worst case for wheat is 0.15 gallons per calorie.

I love beef and don’t intend to stop eating it until I can’t afford it. But the undeniable reality is beef sucks when you look at the water equation. And for those of you struggling to stay informed, water is a big issue that we cannot ignore much longer. If you want to get into a scientific conversation, use actual science.

– Ryan Kelley

WSU graduate student, mechanical engineering