Farmers criticise Ofwat for 'misrepresenting' UK beef production

The NFU pointed out that 85% of the water ‘used’ in UK beef production comes from natural resources like rainwater
The NFU pointed out that 85% of the water ‘used’ in UK beef production comes from natural resources like rainwater

Economic water regulator Ofwat has been heavily criticised by farmers on social media for 'misrepresenting' UK beef production after a tweet encouraging people to go meat-free backfired.

Ofwat, the body responsible for economic regulation of the privatised water industry in England and Wales, used Twitter to encourage #MeatFreeMonday on 29 April.

Using a picture from Waterwise to demonstrate its point, Ofwat said: "Did you know it takes 15,415 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef, but only 322 litres of water per 1kg of vegetables?"

After posting the tweet, dozens of farmers and groups criticised the regulator for misrepresenting UK beef production.



The NFU pointed out that 85% of the water ‘used’ in UK beef production comes from natural resources like rainwater thanks to Britain's temperate climate and abundant grassland.



Others lambasted Ofwat for 'dangerously tarring' food production systems.

NFU Cymru criticised the tweet, saying Waterwise’s portrayal of livestock farming as a sector that is wasteful of water is entirely 'unfair and without foundation'.

The union's president, John Davies said: “The Welsh farming sector is an efficient user of water. Water abstraction for agriculture is highly regulated and monitored.

“In fact, many farmers actually store winter water for use in the summer, rather than abstract from other sources in the warmer months and they would like to be enabled, through policy, to do more."

He added: “Waterwise’s decision to use statistics that do not accurately reflect Welsh grass-based productions systems and agriculture’s use of water also discredits the value that farmers add to the relatively small amount of water they do use."

It follows Welsh farmers calling out recent reports which suggest meat production in Wales require large quantities of water needed to produce.

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) said such reports are 'well wide of the mark' in Wales, where it’s mainly 'green water', or rainfall, which irrigates the pastures.

“Here the majority of stock benefit from 'green water', the world wide definition of the rainfall that is used at the place where it falls,” said Charlotte Priddy, FUW Policy Officer.

She added: “Even Compassion in World Farming agrees that 'raising farm animals outside on grass that is watered by rainfall is a better way to manage our water supplies than industrial farming.'”