Mark Bittman. Does he ever take a stand on anything?

A wealth of knowledge—apparently wasted

Since beginning this blog in February of 2011, I have probably mentioned Mark Bittman at least 100 times. As you probably know, he is a writer, speaker, author and columnist for the New York Times.

He writes books about food and he writes columns about food. And he covers all the topics: sustainability, health, waste, cooking and the suffering of animals. On 3-13-12, he wrote another article about that last topic–entitled The Human Cost of Animal Suffering (see link below). He leads off:

Until a couple of years ago I believed that the primary reasons to eat less meat were environment- and health-related, and there’s no question that those are valid reasons. But animal welfare has since become a large part of my thinking as well. And I say this as someone not known to his friends as an animal-lover.

An inside view of our “system” at work — the systematic torture of TEN BILLION animals a year in just the USA

But what really impressed me was that he revealed in this article that he is one of the few “experts” out there who understand that we do not “need” to eat any animal protein whatsoever.

As you know, I have identified that ubiquitous “protein myth” as the single biggest barrier preventing the brightest scientists and thinkers of the world from promoting an aggressive effort to embrace the power of plant-based eating around the world. In his latest article about animal suffering, quoting often from Pachirat’s book, Every Twelve Seconds, Mark talks about the meat eaters’ justification for their carnivorous habit:

Meat-eaters may assert that this (our cruel system) is somehow justifiable, because we “need” to eat meat — just not cats or dogs or goldfish — to live. And even though we don’t (in fact, there’s increasing evidence that too much of it is harmful; more on that later this week), we have more than two million years of tradition to point to, we have bodies that process meat well and even thrive on it in limited amounts and we have a love of eating animal flesh that for most of us may not go away any time soon.

Promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth

What’s good for our health, is also good for the planet — and all of her creatures.

In this paragraph, he admits that we don’t actually “need” to eat meat but rather that it is indeed “harmful” for us. But then he defends the continued eating of meat because we’ve been eating it for two million years. If that’s a good reason for continuing a deeply flawed process, then I guess we should plan to continue the process of killing our fellow humans since we’ve also been doing that since the beginning of time.

For as long as I have been following Mark Bittman, most of his work has been critical of our wasteful, harmful, cruel and unsustainable diet-style. But then he appears on NPR doing an interview and arguing against vegetarianism. Although, if you watch this 6-minute video about his 2009 book, Food Matters, you’ll see that he’s not really arguing against it, he’s just not taking a stand on anything.

The Bottom Line. When the most knowledgeable people (about food) in the world fail to provide us with clear direction, then they simply add to the confusion. It’s like the steady stream of contradictory stories on the evening news—the consumer is never consistently told the truth about anything. Hence, they all just continue with their bad habits—which is exactly the way the “system” likes it. In Mark’s latest article, I like his last sentence about that system:

When we all know the system, we’ll be even more eager to change it. —Mark Bittman

In closing, there are two links here; the first is my blog post from last year where I summarized Mark Bittman’s great wealth of knowledge about food. The next is the link to today’s feature article.

As for me, I will continue to follow Mark’s work, I will continue to  learn from that work and I will continue to implore him to take a stand—providing the clarity needed for people everywhere to make the right decisions about food—before it’s too late.

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

Blogging today from Atlanta, GA – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at

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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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6 Responses to Mark Bittman. Does he ever take a stand on anything?

  1. MK says:

    Agreed! It’s frustrating me to that he knows all the facts about industrial agriculture and its affects on health and the environment, but essentially ignores it in his own life. To me, that’s not being a leader. If you can’t practice what you preach, why even preach it? How can he expect meat consumption to decrease if he’s not leading the way? (I know he said he only eats one meal of meat a day but that’s still supporting the meat industry). I do appreciate that he said that a vegan diet is the most morally consistent. However he then stated that it was a difficult diet, and iI get the feeling he won’t be going vegan anytime soon. But if he did become vegan, and wrote about it on the NY Times, imagine what an impact that could have!

  2. Kris says:

    I think that Mark Bittman has taken a stand. I’m not sure he deserves this lashing. I think he is, as we all are, evolving in his views and sharing it as he goes. In the introduction to his book, Food Matters, he states, “For my entire adult life I’ve been what used to be called a gourmand and is now called (unfortunately) a foodie: a daily and decent cook, a traveler who’s eaten all over the world and written about it, a journalist and a food lover who’s eagerly devoured everything.” I, too, am what is now called (unfortunately, I agree with Mark Bittman) a foodie and I can see his point of view. I am a lover of true food and have in the last few years realized that I am going to have to love it in a very different way, without cheese and animal products. I am not all of the way there, but I myself am evolving and Bittman’s book and many others including yours, Jim, support my evolution. I commend all of you, and feel that a moderate approach can win some people and a zealous one rarely does. Finally, since I’m talking about books, I love Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals,(which is about NOT eating them) and think it is a worthy addition to the library of anyone who is moving toward eating exclusively or almost exclusively plants.

  3. Emily Webber says:

    Excellent post today, Jim. You know, he is saying this because he personally knows the truth, but is not willing to give up meat. He himself is living in cognitive dissonance. Most people don’t know the truth and go on ignorantly eating animal products. But I believe that most people, when they learn about the health, suffering and environmental consequences of eating animal products will adopt a plant based diet. We are evolving in that direction. It is a slow process, but one that will happen. Mark’s argument simply reflects where he is right now on his own path.

    Emily Webber 🙂

  4. Vic says:


    I happen to feel the same way about Bill Clinton..perhaps being a “Rhodes Scholar” isn”t
    what it’s cracked up to be..or maybe the “fence sitting” has come from too many years in
    the political arena…I know the world was flat for many years n tomatoes were poisionous.

    My kudos to u n your tireless dedication.


  5. Mark Bittman: He is ambivalent in his stand on food. Vegan is the way to eat, but not for him. It sends the message: Keep eating what you eat but lets slaughter less animals.

    Just think, Jim, if you were the food editor for the New York Times, would that send a stronger, more positive message on what to eat?

    Sal Liggieri

  6. Penny says:

    Thank you Jim for upholding a standard of accountability. We are most fortunate to have the benefit of your your watchful eye and unwavering commitment to promoting the health of human kind.

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