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There's a serious problem with Greek yogurt

greek yogurt oikos 2
greek yogurt oikos 2

(Flickr/Maureen McLaughlin)

You may have heard that Greek yogurt has a big waste problem. To make it thick and creamy, producers strain out all of its liquid. They end up with an enormous amount of watery, acidic byproduct that they still have no idea what to do with.

Which brings us to an even more pressing problem: the water.

Making one small container — a single serving — of Greek yogurt requires 90 gallons of water, Mother Jones reports.

That's a lot of water, especially considering that California, the nation's biggest dairy producer, is in the middle of its fourth year of the most extreme drought in over a millennia.

A serving of almonds, by comparison, uses just 23 gallons. On the other hand, red meat, which requires water at nearly every step of the production process, is even worse at 850 gallons for an 8-ounce steak.

It all comes down to one major issue: A huge amount of all the crops we grow (and irrigate) are fed to animals — whether we eat their meat or just use their milk.

Take alfalfa, for example. Whether it's dried and made into hay or chopped up and processed into feed, almost all of it is grown for the sole purpose of feeding animals. And a huge portion of those animals — especially in California — are dairy cows, which we use to make milk and (you guessed it) yogurt.

The problem with going Greek

Because cows eat thirsty crops, all dairy products require a pretty hefty amount of water. A glass of milk, for example, translates into 30 gallons of water, while a slice of cheese needs 25 gallons. By comparison, a regular container of yogurt, which requires 35 gallons, doesn't seem so bad.

But make that yogurt Greek and bam! You're up to 90 gallons of water — all for one little container.

Why? The reason Greek yogurt is so thick and creamy is because, as mentioned above, all its water has been drained out. Regular yogurt still has all that water.

That means that in order to get the same amount of yogurt (think about half a cup, which is the typical single serving), you need far more of the original solution of the Greek stuff. That way, by the time all the water is squeezed out, you're still left with enough to fill a single serving.

So while Greek yogurt might be a delicious, protein-rich snack, it's probably not your best bet in the middle of the drought.

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