BEEF Daily

Why Ranchers Should Care About The Documentary “Cowspiracy”


A new documentary entitled, "Cowspiracy," paints the beef business in a very negative light, citing cattle as the sole reason we have sustainability issues on our planet. Ranchers will need to"beef" up on their beef production facts to help balance out the conversation about sustainability and animal agriculture.

I haven’t seen the documentary “Cowspiracy” yet, but after viewing the trailer and reading some of the publicity for it, I’m sure it won’t be one any cattle producer will enjoy watching. The trailer points to a dark “sustainability secret” which is the “one single industry destroying the planet more than any other.” According to the trailer, this industry is responsible for global warming, water shortages, methane emissions, species extinction, and the ocean dead zones. “Cowspiracy” places the blame on livestock production.

In the trailer, the creators insinuate they are taking a big personal risk, even endangering their lives, by making this film. In fact, they claim that the livestock industry is so nefarious, so powerful, that the major established environmental organizations are afraid to take it on. But the film’s creators don’t have any problem painting ranching as the world’s worst environmental villain in the first 10 seconds, and it only gets worse from there.

Of course, Cowspiracy just appears to be regurgitating the common myths the beef industry has worked hard to correct over the years. For example, the Cowspiracy website claims it takes 660 gals. of water to make one hamburger, or the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers.

However, according to Facts About Beef, “In reality, it takes 441 gals. of water to produce 1 lb. of boneless beef. Farmers and ranchers are committed to water conservation and have reduced the amount of water used to raise beef by 12% compared to 30 years ago. In comparison, 441 gals. of water is a fraction of what is used to produce other everyday items. It takes over 713 gals. of water to produce one cotton t-shirt; 39,090 gals. to manufacture a new car; and 36 million gals./day is leaked from the New York City water supply system.”

So if we really care about water conservation, we should stop wearing clothes, driving cars and using water altogether in our homes and businesses.

An inflated estimate of water use in beef production is just one of the myths being perpetuated by this film. It’s clear the film’s producers are anti-meat and anti-food animal. The documentary debuts this summer, and I’m sure it will make more than a few viewers feel guilty about consuming their beloved cheeseburger. That’s why it’s up to us to share the factual information about beef production and the environment.

I encourage everyone to visit reference sites like or check out our Earth Day page for resources on this topic.

Will you go view Cowspiracy? Do you think the documentary is something ranchers should worry about? How would you respond to being painted a villain by a couple of guys with a video camera? How can we show our consumers how the beef industry has decreased its use of natural resources while producing more beef? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 164

Miriam Wells (not verified)
on Jul 21, 2014

I don't really get how the everyday items you chose to relate to in regard to water consumption during production make for a good comparison. Well, at least not in favor for beef producers. A single cotton T-shirt will be worn in a time frame during which quite a lot of cheeseburgers can and will be consumed by the average Joe. Going nude clearly has less impact than cutting out one or two burgers each week. Although the water consumption needed to produce a car seems huge it is still not as much as what you need for only 90 pounds of beef.
If you are trying to convince me you have to do better than that.

Dusty (not verified)
on Jul 21, 2014

Did you miss the gorilla in the room or what? 36 million gallons per day LEAKED from New York City alone? That doesn't count what was flushed in toilets, used for hand and body washing, or actually consumed.

on Jul 22, 2014

The ELEPHANT in the room are the cows. I have watched rainforests with my own eyes being teared down to feed cows, I have seen the places where the killing takes place, the sea dead zones are caused by cattle manouver, cancer, obesity (ask any obese if they are vegetarian), animals crying, forests which are the lung of the earth being teared down. My family had a couple of ranches with cattle, but once we found out and looked into it, we realized we couldn't go on, we couldn't live knowing all the suffering we were causing to animals and human beings as well, who get sick by having our diet..

Anonymous1 (not verified)
on Jul 22, 2014

Troll much?

Susan Estrella (not verified)
on Oct 6, 2014

WOW!!! Good for you and your family for doing the right thing!!! We need more humans to stand up for what's right, rather than just going along with the crowd in spite of overwhelming evidence that Cowspiracy (the documentary Ms. Radke doesn't want to see) is exactly right!!! We are destroying the world with our greed!!! No human needs to eat flesh or steal baby calves' milk from their mothers. It's the biggest mistake we are making and we are making it daily ... by the billions!!! Read "The World Peace Diet" by Dr. Will Tuttle, most important book of our times, possibly of all times!!! Maybe we can change our system... one person at a time. Please watch this excellent video for your sake and for the cause (of creating a better world!!!) <3

TJ (not verified)
on Dec 10, 2014

Okay, I'm confused, are we talking about elephants or cows. Apparently they both drink lots of water?

for real though. This movie will do about as much good as "an Inconvient truth" or "blackfish" I've seen both and I would say 95% of America had the same reaction I did

"Wow, that's terrible. I wonder what else is on"

I highly doubt you will see a significant reduction in beef production or consumption after this film has come and gone.
As unfortunate as it is. People just plain do not care. If we as a nation or a species really did care, we'd all be driving hybrids or electric cars or cycling to work. If we really cared, Sea World and parks like it would be out of business.

But, we're an apathetic and selfish society. We want what we want, and we don't want some 'documentary' to dictate our lives.

We need to change our attitude as a nation or as people before we will be able to really impact how we do things.

okay, I'm done, you can criticize and whine now.

Kami (not verified)
on Aug 3, 2014

@Dusty Are you kidding me? there are 9 millions people living in NYC and you think a 36 million gallon/ day for the whole city is the elephant in the room? Can't you do simple math. That's only 4 gallon per person and you think that's more than than the 441 gallons per pounds cited by the article?

Heck even the 441 gallons per pounds figure is pure bs. 441 gallons per pounds is about 3673 l/kg, per comparisons what are the numbers cited by actual scientific studies:
Chapagain & Hoekstra (2003) -> 15977 l/kg
Zimmer& Renault(2003) -> 13500 l/kg
Oki et al.(2003)-> 20700 l/kg
Mekonnen & Hoekstra (2010)->15400 l/kg

Yeah this article is full of shit.

on Jan 11, 2015

Agreed. It may take more water to build a car but there are 1 billion cars on the planet ( too many) and 70 billions cows!! The math is clear.

YukkyMeat (not verified)
on Aug 9, 2014

Why are you only looking at water consumption?

The writer of this article, Amanda, is clearly uneducated about this important issue.

Amanda, you fail to also include:

* MASSIVE deforestation to house the cows you eat
* The disgusting ways cattle (and all animals that are eaten) are treated
* The HUGE amounts of methane produced by these animals farting all day
* The mounting evidence that meat consumption is a major cause of heart disease and cancer
* The fact that these cattle are fed grains and soy which should be used to FEED THE MILLIONS OF STARVING PEOPLE WORDWIDE.

So the huge amounts of water to raise these poor creatures is only the tip of the iceberg.

Get your facts straight Amanda, as I am sure you are one of the many who waste water everyday.

Stop trying to justify something that is causing all of the problems, health wise and environment wise.

There is no brainwashing going on here...its called education. People who don't eat meat are not like an extreme religious group; we are showing people the facts, not something that you can't see.

ShowMe_TheTruth (not verified)
on Sep 9, 2014

Thank you Yukky Meat!! Makes me laugh when people like Amanda twist a story and try to portray facts in their favor to play down what is reality in an ever growing issue. As many have said, water usage in meat production is just skimming the surface of much deeper issues. We need to stop twisting the facts so that uneducated people don't easily grab on to a story or argument that doesn't paint the whole picture. Everyone deserves to know.

Michelle N (not verified)
on Sep 27, 2014

PLEASE feel free to take my share of grains & soy. SERIOUSLY? Grains & soy are the most unhealthy crops, they're more than 85% GMO and deplete the soil more than any other. Not to mention what it has done to the economies and employment of small countries. But you all keep dreaming that dream. You're not saving anything. You're destroying more forests for soy & grain production than cattle production. There is no need for any more land for cattle production, so there is no further destruction, that is an absolute MYTH/LIE, however that myth is being perpetuated while HIDING the FACT that deforestation is happening by the millions of HECTARES to increase production of SOY & GRAINS that are unhealthy & causing serious health & illness issues for people worldwide.

Hello...they use grains to fatten cattle???? What do you think it's going to do to humans?

You're wrong (not verified)
on Oct 1, 2014

Unfortunately te acts you rated are true about the soil depletion, but over 70% of the corn and soy grown in the world is used to feed livestock. You would still be Doug the world better by eating corn/soy yourself than eating it filtered through meat.

on Oct 5, 2014

Good point. And cows milk is to fatten calves. We should avoid it too.

Ahimsa (not verified)
on Oct 5, 2014

You said it yourself, they use grains (and soy) to feed cattle. In fact most of the world's soy and grain production goes into cattle feed. So all that GMO/destruction happening by the millions of hectares, as you say, is mostly due to the cattle industry.

flygrl (not verified)
on Oct 18, 2014

Grains, especially soy and corn (around 80% in the US) are used to feed cattle at a ratio of approximately 10:1. So yeah, taking ten pounds of awful soy to produce one pound of meat seems a little unsustainable...

Num Sabo (not verified)
on Oct 23, 2014

You should read your own sources before you post about them.

In the second link, it's clearly stated:

"In developing countries, GM crops are mostly grown for export by big farmers, not for local consumption. They are used as animal feed to produce meat consumed mostly by the wealthy."

Either you are purposefully leaving it out or you need better reading skills.

Most of the soy crops grown in Brazil are exported to Europe, for cattle feed. Although Europe bans GMO grains for human consumption, they allow it for livestock feed.

So every European that consumes meat is contributing to the destruction of the rainforest. Obviously, if they consumed the grain instead of the meat, it would take less land for its production.

Worse even, is the fact that China is embarking in the same trend, of consuming meat and importing GMO grains to feed their own livestock, which will devastate eve farther our rainforests.

I'm a Brazilian born in Cuiabá, where Blairo Maggi, has been devastating the 'cerrado' and parts of the Brazilian rainforests, for his soy agribusiness.

It hurts me to think that at the time when he ran for state governor, some of my relatives voted for him.

Part of the devastation is free grazing cattle, where the trees are being replaced by fields of grass.

I'm a Vegan myself and recommend it to everybody, although, knowing very well that not everyone is as concerned or mindful as I am.

I'm not as fat as a cow, and my BMI is healthy and where it should be.

Thanks for reading and give a serious thought about slaughtered animals diet.

Andrea (not verified)
on Sep 27, 2014

Very well stated! I just got home from watching the documentary. It was fantastically done! The producers did a phenomenal job of bringing forth the facts, and EDUCATING those of us that unfortunately have been very blind to this epidemic. Knowledge can bring change, so I highly recommend viewing this film. It will change your life, as well as those of our future generations!

gocarr (not verified)
on Oct 6, 2014

It's hard to find a pro-meat argument, so we need to give the author some points for finding one (even if it doesn't make much sense!)

Cowspiracy (not verified)
on Sep 7, 2014

Those stats come from/and are funded by the Beef Checkoff. Lets see what they support

1) What is the beef checkoff?

The Beef Checkoff Program is a producer-funded marketing and research program designed to increase domestic and/or international demand for beef. This can be done through promotion, research and new product development, and a variety of other marketing tools. The Cattlemen's Beef Board and USDA oversee the collection and spending of checkoff funds.

2) How can checkoff dollars be used?

As mandated by law, checkoff dollars must be invested in programs to increase consumer demand for beef and create opportunities to enhance producer profitability. The Beef Act defines six program categories: promotion, research, consumer information, industry information, foreign marketing and producer communications. It’s important to note here that the law does not allow beef checkoff dollars to be invested in production research that it not aimed at improving the end beef product.

3) Who benefits from the beef checkoff?

The fundamental goal of every checkoff program is to increase commodity demand, thereby increasing the potential long-term economic growth of all sectors of the industry. The overwhelming majority of beef and dairy producers say their beef checkoff has value for them in many ways:[1]
78 percent of producers currently approve of the Beef Checkoff Program -- the highest level in 21 years.
80 percent of producers continue to believe that the checkoff has contributed to a positive trend in consumer demand for beef.
71 percent believe that the checkoff has, over the year, contributed to the profitability of their cattle operation.
79 percent of producers believe the Beef Checkoff Program does a good job of representing their interests.
65 percent believe the Beef Checkoff Program is being managed well.
4) What would the Beef Board do with the money if the amount were to be increased?

Should producers agree to an increase after more than two decades – and producers would have to vote on this change – producers who represent us on the Beef Board or state beef councils would carefully analyze where it could have the biggest impact and produce the most benefit to the industry. They may consider putting the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” message back on television, increasing our foreign market development efforts and stepping up our consumer education efforts, among others.

No agenda there, not at all.

Anne E. McGuigan (not verified)
on Oct 4, 2014

Such sad and sorry facts and figures about the Beef Checkout. I have seen Cowspiracy twice and must, as a vegan, support their goals vis a vis presenting the truth about the number one agent of species enslavement, cruelty and death. Will Tuttle states that it is our meat eating culture of violence that is the cause of widespread violence against and destruction of all living beings, including the earth. Veganism is not about us or for us, but it does benefit us.

crobar (not verified)
on Oct 2, 2014

I am from NZ but we have cows too. It takes approx 50l (13.2gallons) of water per beef cow per day and up to 100l (26.4gallons) of water per dairy cow per day. let's assume in the US there are only beef cows. There are 87 000 000 head of cattle in the US. 87 000 000 multiplied by 13.2 gallons = 1148400000 ... that is a lot of water yo

kiwidad (not verified)
on Oct 11, 2014

Hi crobar while cows do need around 50 l of water a day the majority of that comes in the grass they eat. While I don't know the diet of feedlot cattle I would imagine it would have some forage crops like maize or sorghum so not all of their daily requirement will be coming out of the trough

jrf (not verified)
on Jul 22, 2014

something important is that the water used to be recycle.

Kamal (not verified)
on Jul 25, 2014

Thanks Miriam. Those were my thought exactly.

As far as the water leaked is concerned, again, compare that with the daily animal foods water footprint of the millions of New York residents. The amount of water leaked pales in comparison.

Jed (not verified)
on Sep 20, 2014

not sure why they used the tee shirt comparison (though the tee shirt really represents a quantity of cotton) either when the article could have used other food stuffs like the following:

-a pound of chocolate 3,170 gallons of water
-a gallon of wine 1,008 gallons of water
-a pound of rice 449 gallons of water
-a gallon of coffee 880 gallons of water
-a pound of millet 660 gallons of water

most of the water for a hamburger actually goes to growing the feed (corn, soy, alfalfa)

Source: Water Footprint Network

Phil Jones (not verified)
on Oct 4, 2014

Well put Miriam. Nailed it.

Anonymous1 (not verified)
on Oct 17, 2014

I second this. And anyways I would love to live in a world where I wouldn't have to be shamed for being nude.

Candace (not verified)
on Nov 30, 2014

I agree with the point you make Miriam. They are ignoring the issue of sustainability. Cars are driven for many years, shirts are worn several times, but a single person eats three meals a day. Also I would like to hear what the meat industries have to say about the claims made about them being the number one cause of greenhouse methane gas and what steps they might take to reduce this environmental impact.

Jart of Darkness (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2014

You start the article with the mountain of charges against beef but you spend the second half talking about how the water you waste is OK b/c other things waste water. Weak. The fact is ppl need shirts & cars. Nobody needs to eat beef. Beef makes ppl sick. GO VEGAN

PeterBoon (not verified)
on Dec 19, 2014

I completely agree. Reusable items cannot be compared to consumables. That's just idiotic.

Anonymous John17:23 (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2014

Ms. Radke, let me get this straight. You reviewed a movie based on the trailer? Have some guts and see it. Better yet, sit down with your whole family and watch it.

on Jul 21, 2014

Drunken with the success of decimating the dog breeders animal rights people hone in on the real targets. You. Remember facts will not balance emotion when trying to change the dialog. Also facts have nothing to do with the issues. This is stage one of Saul Alinskey's Rules for Radicals 101 - First: Tell the big lie. Repeat it over and over till it is believed. Bringing in facts is like taking a knife to a gun fight. You must bring emotions too to counter emotions. When I am emotional I can't be logical. And the other thing is you can never give up. It will drag on through generations as long as you have vegan fruitloops.

Ilovecows (not verified)
on Aug 3, 2014

Theres only emotion involved because theres tragedy involved, people who care about animals do feel emotion but the facts are subjective because beef farmers don't care about any facts aside from what affects them- which is why you are all disputing the water/pollution facts because that affects you and other humans- you dont care about any facts regarding respect towards the animals for THEIR sake

Mike V (not verified)
on Aug 30, 2014

Too bad you had to spoil your nice discussion about facts with derogatory phrase "vegan fruitloops." There is extreme narrowsightedness on both sides of the issue and labeling people with derogatory terms doesn't help. It would in fact be productive to have a "respectful" and factual discussion. To gain credibility requires honestly, realism and respect.

on Jul 21, 2014

One other point, the way vegan animal rights people have been able to continue so well is they are taking their message to kindergarteners, schools and universities.

Lily Taylor (not verified)
on Jul 23, 2014

Yes, we have, and we're stepping it up too. Be afraid, be very afraid.

chenhalljr (not verified)
on Jul 23, 2014

Yes Maggie they start the brain washing at a very young age and here we are trying to teach our children not to lie and thats most of what the vegan messages are , LIES.

on Sep 27, 2014

i went vegan at mother went vegan at 65...neither of us were brainwashed at a young age (or any age)...we just broke out of the bubble and accepted the truth regarding animal agriculture/ are a weak minded meat zombie...this post has seriously backfired on you and your beef are clearly outnumbered here...and this is supposed to be a pro-meat site??? you make erroneous claims in your time of desperation...i feel sorry for you, but it's never too late to wake up. you're the one being lied to, but your too reluctant to aknowledge your capacity to show compassion, empathy, and sensibility so you get defensive and start spewing judgements on the educated people. it feels good to educate should try it some time.

kris (not verified)
on Oct 4, 2014

Right on WAKEUPMEATZOMBIES very well said.

JK (not verified)
on Aug 25, 2014

Right, and that makes them so evil -- teaching kids the importance of being kind to others no matter who they are, what species they are, or how different they are from us. And by the way, guess who else is taking their message to kingergarteners, schools, and universities? The meat, dairy, and egg industries. How else do you think the whole bs "food pyramid" came about? Do they really expect us to believe that it was unbiased health experts who claimed that a healthy meal consists of "meat and alternatives" and "dairy" as two main components?

Mr. Pete (not verified)
on Oct 5, 2014

People feed babies meat before we're even old enough to talk

gocarr (not verified)
on Oct 6, 2014

I wish I had been taught about veganism as a child. Instead, my parents fed me dead animals for years before I made the connection. I was 30 when I found out the truth about dairy and eggs. 30 years of ruining the environment, contributing to world hunger and animal torture could have been stopped with a little proper education as a youngster.

JCB (not verified)
on Jul 21, 2014

Sustainability.... What a crock of s!@t! 99% of the people using this term have absolutely no clue what it means in the context they're using it. If asked what exactly they mean when they use the term "sustainability" you'll probably get a blank stare and a bunch of stammering around. Most producers are still confused about its use as well. They've been caring for the land for generations and now they're told they aren't "sustainable." They're definition and the liberal definition are worlds apart.This is just the latest scheme concocted by the limp wrist liberals to screw gullible people out of money, no different than "global warming" or PETA. I continue to be amazed at the apparent stupidity of some people in this country, who apparently think they're food and fiber just materializes out of thin air. They won't like the consequences if this country becomes an importer of food instead of a producer, and food prices sky rocket. But hey maybe they'll enjoy being hungry....

KCC (not verified)
on Jul 21, 2014

Dead on!

on Jul 21, 2014

"But hey maybe they'll enjoy being hungry...."
They will be the last to go hungry. Those votes have long been bought and paid for.

The Truth (not verified)
on Jul 23, 2014

I wonder if anyone's done a documentary on city lawn fertilization and the effects it has on the water supply. You know I could never figure that one out. People who have very little understanding of fertilizers or vegetation going out to make they're lawn look the best by over fertilizing then watering it in right away or washing it down the gutters. Whatever. I guess a concentrated amount of people over fertilizing and washing it into the water system has no effect on things like that. Silly me.

crobar (not verified)
on Oct 2, 2014

there may not have been many docos ... but their have certainly been many scientific papers written and a lot of research into it.

Fred (not verified)
on Aug 16, 2014

Just off the top of my head, what sustainability means to me is the ability to keep doing what you're doing far into the future, and hopefully do it with "good" rather than "bad" consequences. The only point you made to suggest that beef raising is sustainable is that ranchers have "been caring for the land for generations." Maybe so, but 150 years is not all that long a period, and, if you look at all the changes that have taken place in recent generations, with water and land shortages, pollution and huge population growth, a phrase like "taking care of the land" rings a little hollow in these days. And what is your idea, anyway, of what "limp wrist liberals" mean by "sustainable"? And as far as thinking that "food and fiber just materializes out of thin air" goes, I think one point of the film is that we would do much better to directly consume the food grown rather than the wasteful process of passing it through cattle and other animals.

Beefeater (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2014

So Fred, who is going to grow that food??? What are we going to do with the cattle that aren't being fed anymore....let them roam the Plains.....where crops need to be planted for food consumption??? Do you think cattle will just stop eating, drinking, and shutting just because we won't have them in feedyards anymore? What about all the other animals and humans doing the same thing......?

Linda Ahimsa (not verified)
on Oct 4, 2014

Fred, do you really think everyone is going to stop eating the beef on the same day? WE breed them by artificial insemination in massive numbers FOR food. When we stop breeding them their numbers will decline and no doubt some compassionate people will find a solution for those that are left. You know, they were free animals before we stepped in to domesticate them. That would be radical, huh? To let them just be? And, you know what? The ranchers can grow grain to feed the humans, not the livestock. Radiclal, huh? A healthier diet, no cruelty, and a healthier planet...very radical indeed! Be afraid of us compassionate Vegans...we are so radical. ;-)

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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