• 06.20.12

All The Water It Takes To Produce A Burger

The water footprint of an object can be hard to wrap your head around. This video gives you a good sense of exactly how much water–everything from growing the cow’s food to making the bun–goes into your last burger.

Hamburgers, like many enjoyable things in life, have a resource-intensive production process. In addition to meat, burger production requires water–lots of it. The USGS estimates that it takes 4,000 to 18,000 gallons of water to produce a juicy hamburger, depending on conditions that cows are raised in. The water doesn’t go directly into your burger; rather, it is used to feed, hydrate, and service cows. Check out a visualization of the water that goes into a burger in the video above.


The video is just a small piece of a European Commission campaign to raise awareness about resource efficiency, according to PSFK. The Generation Awake campaign features a site dedicated to teaching Europeans about water efficiency–and shocking us into action with statistics about the water footprints of various products (did you know that hosing your lawn for nine hours uses the same amount of water as it takes to make a pair of jeans?).

The site suggests some fairly obvious steps for reducing your water footprint: buy more secondhand goods, waste less food, and eat less meat. But if you’re up for a real challenge, Generation Awake will soon launch a video challenge asking participants to visually demonstrate the amount of water needed to make chocolate, coffee, hamburgers, beer, and shoes, much like in the clip seen here.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.