5 predications of how the drought will change Californians’ diets

5 predications of how the drought will change Californians’ diets

By Samantha Lubow

Did you know agriculture uses 77% of water in California? As California suffers from this exceptional drought, it is evident that our agriculture industry has hardships ahead.  Agricultural exports and profits may greatly reduce in the next couple of decades and as prices in California rise, other states and countries will begin to source their food elsewhere—so what does that mean for Californian’s diets? Can we sustain a healthy diet with limited amounts of water? The following 5 trends have the potential to rise in popularity over the next decade as we battle the consequences of the drought.

Our diet will include less animal products

Animal products including meat, dairy, and eggs use more water to produce than any other food. In fact, the best decision you can make to help sustain the environment is to eliminate or reduce the consumption of animal products. So how do animals use the majority of our water? Feed. California alfalfa uses more water than any other crop in the state. Alfalfa is used to supplement feed for cattle. On top of the water an animal uses in its feed, slaughtering each carcass uses about 132 gallons of water. Going vegetarian can reduce your water footprint by 60%!

Insects will be welcomed into our diet as a sustainable form of protein

A United Nations report released in May 2014 reminds western countries that there are over 1,900 edible insect species on the earth and 2 billion people already eat a wide variety of insects. Western countries need to release the taboo associated with eating insects. One gram of mealworms have comparable amounts of protein and nutrients to one gram of fish or poultry but requires less land and water, and emits fewer greenhouse gases. Several companies including Exo and Chirps have already started using cricket flour in their recipes.

No edible food will be wasted. Over produced food will be recovered and served to those in need; spoiled food will be composted or anaerobically digested to create energy.

40% of food in the United States is wasted. Understanding the amount of water and natural resources that go into agriculture allows you to visualize the impact that wasted food has on our environment. Currently, starvation is not a matter of lack of food; it is a consequence of inefficient distribution. As food prices rise, the value that people place on food will also rise which will increase recovery programs for those in need. Restaurants will reduce their portion sizes to ensure no food is wasted and consumers will shop with recipes in mind to avoid spoilage. Curbside composting programs will collect organic waste to convert into energy.

Almond & rice cultivation will be replaced with sorghum & millet.

This year, California rice producers lost 25% of their crop due to drought- related reasons. As the value of water rises, many rice farmers are choosing to sell their water rights instead of planting a new crop. Not to mention, almonds alone use 10% of California’s water supply; however, California produces 80% of all almonds in the world. As the value of water increases, California almonds will loose their comparative advantage and almond farmers will use their resources for other crops. Sorghum and millet cultivation require significantly less water. They gained popularity in the drylands of Africa as drought- resistant grains, capable of providing farmers with a crop each year, regardless of water supplies.

Low-water crops like Nopales will become staples in our diets.

Without enough water for irrigation, farmers cannot leach their soils of minerals after a crop has been harvested. Fields are left with a high amount of minerals and salt, an environment that few plants can survive in. Nopales cactus is one of the only crops to thrive in this environment. The United Nations recently released a report describing the benefits of growing and eating nopales in drought- stricken environments. Consumers can enjoy the arms of the cactus or the fruit, known as prickly pear, which has gained popularity as a health food and nutritional supplement. Other crops that thrive in these environments include the Australian saltbush and some members of the broccoli family.


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