Sep 27 2022
Does the Western Megadrought Mean the End of Cheap Cheese and Ice Cream?
Imagine a summer's day without the jingle of the ice-cream truck, a pizza without its bubbling layer of melted cheesy goodness, or even a bowl of cereal without milk. It’s a shocking prospect, for sure, but the threat to these delights is perhaps even more surprising: The fact that Americans enjoy more than three times their body-weight in dairy products each year is, in no small part, due to a water-hungry plant that’s frequently, if counterintuitively, grown in the desert. That plant is alfalfa, and it makes up at least half of the diet of dairy cows all over the world. So why are we growing alfalfa in the arid American Southwest, and watering it from the Colorado River—both of which, as you may have heard on the news, are becoming drier with every passing day? To find out, Gastropod went on a good old-fashioned road trip for some field reporting (literally, in an alfalfa field) and talked to farmers, economists, plant experts, journalists, and exporters about where this surprisingly important plant fits in to a warming world—and how we can prevent a future lacking in lactose without also drying up the West.
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