A friend emailed me, “Girl, you are relentless…I wish I had your drive.” It was his response to my plea to cast a vote for my Pasture-Raised Burger entered in the 2013 LA Times Battle of the Burgers. My burger bravely battles against 47 others in the virtual world of Facebook. For the next five days, I need to chase votes on behalf of my burger that I’ve nicknamed,”the Pasture-Raised Burger that could,” because organic, pasture-raised meat is the underdog.
When I began my journey to write Eat Less Water, I assumed that meat, especially red meat, wasn’t ‘water-sustainable’ food. Beef has a water footprint of 1,851 gallons of freshwater per pound and comprises 27 percent of our total water footprint. Worldwide, the demand for beef is growing while the availability of clean drinking water is shrinking. Based on the current trajectory of population growth, shifting water patterns, pollution and waste, agencies studying the problem, including the United Nations, agree that over two-thirds of the world population will experience water scarcity by 2025. Yet, here I am promoting my beef burger.
It was two California Cowboys at the Watkins Cattle Company ranch that taught me that beef can be raised in a manner that is “best for water,” the term I coined for my children to refer to food that requires water only minimally diverted from its natural cycle. When cattle are grazed on rain-fed pastures, they benefit the land. Grazing cattle controls dry brush, lowering the risk of fire. Cattle also improves the soil by adding beneficial nutrients necessary for plant growth, and enhance the soil’s infiltration capacity, its ability to draw the water downward to replenish underground water supplies, which provides rivers with a steadier flow of clean, fresh water yearlong.
In my research to complete my Beef and Water chapter, I was most fascinated by the cows digestive system. Nature evolved the four stomachs of the cow for grazing. The elegance of the ruminant stomach is in the animal’s symbiotic relationship with its habitat. Through a system of fermentation, the ruminant stomach extracts nutrients for the animal, and then its excrement, ripe with microorganisms, fosters plant growth and enhances the water retention of the receiving soil. This is what biologist Allen Savory observed on African grasslands, that lead to the establishment of Holistic Management, a grazing techniques that mimics wild herds to reverse the desertification of land that is rapidly gripping the earth’s landscape.
But back to my burger.
To me the conversation of food needs to include its source. We can’t just smother our beef with teriyaki or hide it under thick layers of melty cheese and ignore the fact that modern cattle operations housing upwards of 4,000 head a piece, place tremendous stress on the environment. According to Food and Water Watch, the 339,000 beef cattle on feedlots in Imperial County, California, alone generate twice the amount of manure as the sewage from the 18.9 million people in the New York City metro area (2010 Census), the most populous area in the United States. The concentration of animals on smaller and smaller acreage results in mountainous piles of nitrogen and phosphorus-rich manure. These nutrients are harmful when they enter water systems. The EPA reports that nutrient pollution is the leading cause of ‘water quality impairment’ in lakes and estuaries; second in rivers, behind sediment.
Mine, is the only recipe that lists the ingredients AND the source of ingredients. This burger is delicious because the meat need not be hidden by sauces. When cattle is raised as it was intended, grazing on natural pasture, the reward is in the flavor. The patty is squeezed between homemade buns using only organic and dry farmed ingredients. Again the source of ingredients matters.
This contest is an opportunity to spread my Eat Less Water message. If you are on Facebook, please vote for my burger. The five highest vote-getting burgers on June 10 make it to the semi-finals. Currently, my burger is tied for 6th place. The link to vote is here. My Pasture-Raised Burger is on the 5th page. Please get others to vote too.
Please note that the link doesn’t work on smartphones or tablets. Your vote needs to be cast on a good old-fashioned computer.
Here is a link to my burger recipe including the homemade buns.
And yes…I am relentless. I am a saving-water freak, as my eldest daughter lovingly calls me.
Eat less water at your kitchen table!