If Floridians ate much less meat, the state’s water problems would be much smaller. Take, for example, the current controversy about the proposal to withdraw 13 mgd of groundwater for a giant new cattle ranch in the Silver Springs basin. According to the applicant, using that huge volume of water for a fertilized-grass ranch operation will make a “positive difference“(!) for the environment. The debate is about just how much water is needed to run the cattle ranch. Florida vegetarians would say that is an answer to the wrong question: just don’t eat cattle. A low or no-meat diet for most Floridians would prevent both the new proposed water withdrawals and fertilizer applications.
Other economic activities likely would take the place of the proposed cattle operation and slaughterhouse. Even on a larger scale, the economic impact of such a transition would be quite small. The Florida cattle/calf industry is only 1.5% (Table 7-3, pdf) of the nation’s total. It also amounts to only 5.3% of this state’s total agricultural income (which itself is less than 2% of the state’s economy).
Cutting way back on meat consumption is one of the most effective actions that Floridians could take to protect and improve the state’s water resources.