On Monday, Bittman drew a crowd of around 350 to the Philadelphia Library where he spoke about food trends and the impact they have had on our diets and the planet.
“No one knows what a hamburger really costs,” said Bittman, noting that the price of a greasy burger to your health and the planet, as estimated by some, costs as much as $200 a burger, far more than the 99 cents deal marketed on the menu.
In his slide show, Bittman pictured a cow next to a mushroom cloud, stating that our current food demands far surpass what is sustainable. “It’s a little hyperbolic, but you’ve got to get people to pay attention,” he joked.
The United States is the world’s most environmentally damaging country. We also have one of the highest rates of meat consumption of any country in the world. The production of this meat hordes both land (taking 10 times as much land to raise meat as it does plants) and water resources.
“If we had one and 1/3 Earths we could be living sustainable,” says Bittman, explaining that our demand continues to increase, but what we are producing now is not sustainable. “If we were to all live like Americans, we’d need four Earths.”
The amount of meat we process in the U.S. alone could go to the moon and back five times.
The demand for meat, dairy, and processed foods, making up approximately 70% of the American diet, largely is due to marketing.
“No one is born craving skittles, or doughnuts, or whoppers,” says Bittman, going on to remind Americans that there was a time when we used to “eat real food, and Goldfish still swam.” We don’t need these kinds of foods.
But today, America would rather specialize and market the heck out of things that kill us, like pizza, fruit loops, and other processed foods, all in the name of making a profit.
While Bittman respects vegans, his solution to fixing our food system and making it sustainable isn’t by advocating that everyone becomes vegan. “I’m not pitching veganism. I’m pitching what I call ‘less-meat-arianism’,” he emphasizes.
He’s also a huge fan of the proposed soda tax, which he envisions as one day being expanded to all junk food as well. Eliminating marketing of junk to kids, fixing the school lunch program, mandating that package labeling become fully honest, and creating incentives for those who buy and sell healthy food and disincentives for those who don’t are all key proponents of how Bittman, and many like him, see as the solution to fixing our food system.
He also advocates that people should start cooking and stop relying on convenience foods, a prevalent bad habit among Americans. “Our mantra has become, ‘I’m to busy to cook,'” states Bittman, going on to note that despite this purported business, we still find time to fit in numerous hours of TV and to watch others cook on that TV of our.