Mark Bittman in Philly


Image obtained from


So I’ve done a few posts about Bittman lately, largely due to the new release of his Food Matters Cookbook.

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.

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  • Reply
    Angela (the diet book junkie)
    October 5, 2010 at 6:07 am

    wow, sounds like an interesting night! i have to admit, i agree with him on a lot of things including (gulp) the soda tax. would you know: are some states doing that already? i thought i read that but i could be mistaken….

    thanks for the review, i’ll be sure to look for that book! 🙂

    • Reply
      October 5, 2010 at 8:02 am

      There have been proposed soda taxes in both New York and Philadelphia (and possibly San Francisco, but I’m not totally sure about this one), but none of them have yet to pass. I’m all for a soda tax here in Philly, but there are so many in opposition to the tax that it seems to be some time before such a tax will every truly be passed.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for posting, very interesting! 🙂

  • Reply
    October 5, 2010 at 9:04 am

    LOVE THIS QUOTE “No one is born craving skittles, or doughnuts, or whoppers,”

    I need to look for that new cookbook – such a great message.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Eating less meat has always been a good way to help the environment and sustain more life. That is why so many developing countries have a mostly vegetarian diet. They would never be able to support all their people if using the grain to fee cattle instead of feeding people.

    Sounds like a great cook book.

  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    October 6, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Great post. I think I like this guy!! He sounds a lot like Pollan with his views. Sounds like someone I’d love to sit and chat with.
    I get so annoyed when people tell me they don’t have time to cook. HE’s right, we all watch hours of TV, why not take 30 minutes away from the tube and put it towards creating a healthy and wholesome meal?! Go figure!

  • Reply
    October 6, 2010 at 7:08 am

    hmm interesting. didnt know he came here, would have tried to check it out 🙂

  • Reply
    October 12, 2010 at 5:54 am

    I love MB! Read ing his books many years ago began our turn to an all natural, whole foods way of eating. My hubby is our only soda drinker. It is a hard habit to give up. There are some all natural alternatives, though. Just have to read the labels. Thanks for sharing this evening in Philly.

  • Reply
    Q and A with Mark Bittman « Food-Fitness-FreshAir
    October 18, 2010 at 5:13 am

    […] recently had the chance to do a Q and A with Mark Bittman, currently on a book tour with his latest, The Food Matters […]

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