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Health Series: Expert Comment

One hamburger takes 2,400 litres of 'hidden' water to make

‘The Game Changers’, is a Netflix documentary investigating the health and global benefits of a plant-based diet. Professor Tim Lang, of City's Centre for Food Policy, appears in the film providing expert comment.

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

Recently appearing on Netflix, The Game Changers is a 2018 documentary outlining an argument for adopting a plant-based diet, based upon its benefits both in terms of athletic performance and overall health to the human body, and to our global climate.

Executively produced by James Cameron (The Terminator, Titanic), the documentary follows presenter and former mixed martial artist, James Wilks, who takes the audience on his personal journey of injury and investigation of the research supporting the benefits of a plant-based diet.

On the way, he shares a wider critique of the environmental damage caused by the meat industry and how society moving toward a plant-based diet could alleviate this.


Interviews include athletes and celebrities espousing the benefits of going plant-based, including British Formula One driver, Lewis Hamilton, and actor, former body-builder and former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

One of a number of academic experts also interviewed in the documentary, Professor Tim Lang, of City, University of London’s Centre for Food Policy, was asked his view of the agricultural impact of the meat industry, and the potential effects of society moving toward a more plant-based diet.

Professor Lang said,

‘Water has been fed into the grain that’s been fed to the cattle, the cattle’s been made into beef.  One Hamburger is 2,400 litres of embedded water. That’s a heck of a lot of water.’

The documentary also shared statistics suggesting that 27% of humanity’s freshwater consumption goes to produce animal food, and that the livestock sector is responsible for about 15% of all human made emissions globally, which is equivalent to the emissions from all the forms of transport in the world, including the cumulative emissions of planes, trains, cars and ships.

Professor Lang later concluded,

The message is overwhelming both for public health and environmental reasons.  The more plants you can eat, and the less meat and dairy you can consume, the better.

Find out more

Watch on Netflix

To watch the documentary, visit Netflix (account required). Professor Lang appears between 1hr 11min 04s and 1hr 12min 50s.

Report from EAT-Lancet Commission on Planet, Food, Health (2019)

Professor Lang and Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City, are members of the international ‘EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health’ team of 37 world leading scientists from across the globe who have collaborated to answer the question:

Can we feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet within planetary boundaries?

Published in January 2019, the Commission’s report recommended its ‘planetary food diet’, a global diet that could improve health and reduce further damage to the planet.

You can read City’s coverage of the report on the news section of our website.

Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London

To find out more about the Centre for Food Policy at City, visit the webpage.

You can also find a list of relevant briefings relating to global food policy from the Centre directly below:

Rethinking Food Policy briefings

The Centre publishes regular ‘Rethinking Food Policy’ briefings on key areas of global food policy:

4th Rethinking Food Policy Brief ‘Embedding food in all policies’.

3rd Rethinking Food Policy Brief ‘Integrated Food Policy: What is it, and how can it help transform food systems?’.

2nd Rethinking Food Policy Brief ‘Understanding the food system: Why it matters for food policy’.

1st Rethinking Food Policy Brief 'Tackling food systems challenges: the role of food policy'.

City Food Symposium, 2018

Report of the international, 2018 City Food Symposium: How can evidence of lived experience make food policy more effective and equitable in addressing major food system challenges?

Summary document of the international, 2018 City Food Symposium: Why engage with evidence of lived experience as a means of addressing major food systems challenges?

Report from the Centre for Food Policy looking at the food systems sweet spot: Connecting food systems for co-benefits: How can food systems combine diet-related health with environmental and economic policy goals?

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