The way we eat is totally unsustainable…by any measure

Pork Council Disagrees with Mark Bittman on Sustainability– No Surprise

Mark Bittman "gets it" when it comes to what's wrong with what we eat.

On February 1, Mark Bittman wrote a terrific article entitled “A Food Manifesto for the Future” in the New York Times.  (See link below) Here are the first two paragraphs:

For decades, Americans believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about this diet’s effect on the environment or on the lives of the animals (or even the workers) it relies upon. Nor did we worry about its ability to endure — that is, its sustainability.

That didn’t mean all was well. And we’ve come to recognize that our diet is unhealthful and unsafe. Many food production workers labor in difficult, even deplorable, conditions, and animals are produced as if they were widgets. It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system.

Mark then compiled a very impressive and comprehensive list of nine steps of ideas that would help correct the problem.

  1. End government subsidies to processed food.
  2. Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption.
  3. Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture and empower the Food and Drug Administration.
  4. Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry.
  5. Encourage and subsidize home cooking.
  6. Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods.
  7. Reduce waste and encourage recycling.
  8. Mandate truth in labeling.
  9. Reinvest in research geared toward leading a global movement in sustainable agriculture

Obviously, one wouldn’t expect that the Pork Council would agree with the highlighted #4, since without those CAFO’s, they would be out of business.  In a letter to the editor of the Times on February 8, Mr. Spronk of the Pork Council stated, As for “sustainable” alternatives, perhaps they can produce enough meat for the wealthy, but not for a world population that is growing and demanding more protein.

While I love Mark Bittman’s description of the problem and his list of nine ideas, I have to agree with Mr. Spronk that there is no possible sustainable method for growing the 10 billion animals in this country so that we can get “enough protein.”  Herein lies the problem:  The vast majority of Americans still believe that we truly “need” to be eating lots of animal protein so that we can grow up to be big and strong.  Not.

Scientists and a handful of pioneering physicians have known for over 20 years that animal protein is a leading cause of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.   While the strongest animals in the world (elephants, horses and hippos) consume zero animal protein, we humans have decided that we “need” to have it three meals a day. And there’s a whole lot of money riding on maintaining the status quo of our food supply and our vast health care system ($2.7 trillion) whose future depends on our continued consumption of the unhealthful and unsafe diet that Mr. Bittman described above.

As much as I would love for Mr. Bittman’s list of nine ideas to become a reality, Mr. Spronk has reminded us that the HUGE special interests in this nation will not go away quietly and it’s virtually impossible that our government will be able to change things anytime soon.  But there was one thing missing in Mr. Bittman’s list — personal responsibility.

We all owe it to our children and future generations to get this mess fixed before it’s too late.  The situation is grossly unsustainable for many reasons and the refreshingly simple solution to this crucial global problem is right under our noses — it’s what we put in our mouths three times a day.  The simple answer is a deliberate shift in the direction of a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Jane Brody has been writing on this topic for over 20 years and lauded Dr. Colin Campbell’s China Project as the Grand Prix of Epidemiology in a May 9, 1990 article in the New York Times. But articles like that don’t get much media attention — because they challenge that HUGE “system” mentioned earlier.

The answer is grassroots.  People who genuinely care about the future of their children, grandchildren and all future generations will start paying attention — just like our former president Bill Clinton did recently.  By the way Mr. Spronk, he has publicly stated that he no longer eats meat and dairy.  Maybe the meat folks will sue him like they did Oprah when she declared on national TV over ten years ago that she would never eat another burger.  And just recently, she aired her own “Vegan Challenge” on her new network.

J. Morris Hicks, "the big picture guy" ppromoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

But that hasn’t slowed down the dairy industry — YET.  In the USA Today on Monday following the Super Bowl, the dairy folks had a full page ad of QB Aaron Rodgers with a young boy looking up to him — and both of them sporting their “milk” mustaches.  It’s a sad situation today — but change is beginning to happen.

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at

PS: Occasionally an unauthorized ad may appear beneath a blog post. It is controlled by WordPress (a totally free hosting service). I do not approve or personally benefit whatsoever from any ad that might ever appear on this site. I apologize and urge you to please disregard. 

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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