Sustainability: Beef vs. Beans in a Time of Drought

What makes a satisfying bean burger?


I went to the specialists at Viewpoint Brewing Co. and asked the question. Mike Patula, Executive Chef, says that a bean burger needs the perfect binder (here, sweet potatoes, mashed black beans, quinoa and bread crumbs), some whole beans for texture, and a great deal of flavors. Chef Patula’s “Farmer’s Burger” gets ordered about a third of the time against the beef option, not only by diners eating a plant-based diet, but also by diners wanting to change it up or eat healthfully.


Charles Koll, owner, says that Viewpoint wants to be inclusive and conscious of vegan and vegetarian diners. In truth, many meat-eaters enjoy the nine vegetarian and vegan offerings, such as the “Ceasar-ish Salad”. The surprising salad contains tofu in the dressing for creaminess and shaved parsnip for a crunch!


Drought and burgers are not compatible. Beef burgers, that is. Since 98% of California is in severe drought, let’s look at how much water it takes to land a juicy burger on a plate. By UN estimates, a gargantuan 500 gallons of water is needed to produce one quarter-pounder burger. This equals to the daily water usage of 6 Americans. Beef has had bad press for its cholesterol content and the greenhouse gas emissions it generates during production, but here we are again: it is not drought friendly.


On our planet, 80% of agricultural land is dedicated to animal protein production (beef, dairy, chicken, lamb, etc.), generating only 18% of the world calories to feed the growing population. The meat-centric western diet, along with wastage of edible food (which generates 8 to 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions) are feared to be depleting natural resources faster than they can be replenished (UN Environment Agency, 2018).


195 Beyond Meat burgers (a plant-based, beef imitation product) can be produced using the same amount of water necessary to produce one single beef burger. Sure, some don’t like the idea of petri-dish “meat”. How about beans? Aside from having no cholesterol or fat, a good amount of fiber and iron, beans cost pennies and are not linked with heart disease! The Water Footprint Calculator estimates that beans require 49 gallons of water per serving, far from the 500 gallons needed by the beef patty.


Visiting our local food artists or exploring at home using fresh ingredients, there are several ways to integrate environmental considerations into our meals. Happy and healthy summer!

Mike Patula, Executive Chef at Viewpoint Brewing Co. Photo byValérie Dufort-Roy.