Food News: Mark Bittman’s “What’s Wrong with What We Eat?”

This photo is borrowed from this source.

This photo is borrowed from this source.

The acclaimed New York Times food writer Mark Bittman’s engaging TED Talk addresses the serious, yet overlooked question: What’s wrong with what we eat? Today the leading diseases in America, like heart disease and diabetes, are a direct result of a modern, Western diet. He argues that we can reverse the current health crisis in the United States by making better lifestyle choices when it comes to food. He doesn’t mean, however, just choosing a low fat or a low carb diet. He means that we need to be more conscientious of where our food is coming from and what exactly is going into it.

Bittman emphasizes the importance of going back to the way our country ate about one hundred years ago. A century ago, everyone was a locavore (someone who eats only local food). It wasn’t just a fashionable trend or belief in the food culture. Everything was exactly what it appeared to be. There were no guessing games about where food was coming from. People just ate without having to give much thought about where their food was coming from or what was going into it.

However, industrialization made, as Bittman say, “soy, corn, and cattle king” in this country. Fast food began popping up all around the country. Women went back to work, so pre-packaged food was ubiquitous across the country. While the volume of food was growing in the country, the quality and care of food quickly downgraded.

Since industrialization, we have never addressed the flaws in our food system. The majority of America is accustomed to frequently eating fast food or processed food. As Bittman noted, we are still under a “food coma” as a country. We have tried to patch over the imperfections in our food system by advertising products that are organic or all natural; however, they are often just a labels. If a fish comes all the way from the west coast, it can be sold in an east coast grocery store and still be label organic – but is it really organic? Bittman says, “it is not organic in spirit.” With the rising cost of fuel, the footprint, transportation of many organic products defeats the principle idea behind organic.

Bittman reaffirms what many people already know. He suggests we start by cutting down on fast food and meat consumption. He informs us with the staggering fact that as a country we are consuming roughly ten billion animals a year, which is about thirty times the United States’s human population. With livestock production that high, there is no way for it to be and ethical process or produce a top quality product.

Although he is not a vegetarian, Bittman voices to the audience that we do not need either animals or junk food in our diet – not even a growing teenage boy. We would be better off eliminating both from our diets and consuming more plants. He informs us that half of the antibiotics in this country go directly to livestock and that the livestock production is the second highest offender of atmospheric altering gases. These are two reasons alone to cut down our consumption of meat.

For the simple solution Bittman recommends that everyone start just by improving their own diet and advocating the importance of eating good, real food. We need a diet rich in nutrients and we need to limit our meat consumption to a half a pound per person per week (many Americans consume more meat than this in one day). In order for our food system to see change and progress, we need to “stop raising [animals] industrially and eating them thoughtlessly.”

To hear more on Mark Bittman’s opinion about our struggling food system watch his inspiring Ted Talk.

To Learn more about Mark Bittman you can check out his website or visit his NYT blog page.

"Mark Bittman: What's Wrong with What We Eat." TED: Ideas worth Spreading. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.