Yes, our food system is going to hell in a handbasket – at least that is what Mark Bittman, a self proclaimed foodie and writer for the NY Times would have you believe.
I beg to differ, Mr. Bittman.
Bittman wrote in his January 1, New York Times column that our food is a root cause of many diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. And the root of our dangerous diets is our system of “hyper-industrial agriculture, the kind that uses 10 times as much energy as it produces”.
Where are your facts Mr. Bittman? The fact is farming continues to become more efficient and more sustainable. Farmers can feed more people now than ever before. Farmers are on a constant road of improvement – always have and always will.
And then Bittman goes on to say we must figure out a way to un-invent our food system since it’s a major cause of climate change, it spawned the obesity crisis, poisoned land and water, and tortured billions of animals.
Is that it, Mark? Surprised he didn’t say it’s also the root cause of the “fiscal cliff”, drug abuse and murders, since he seemed to mention every other problem of this country. And really, “tortured billions of animals”? It’s pretty easy to throw out those terms. If you really want to have an honest conversation with those involved in the food production system, Mr. Bittman, you need to stop the rhetoric and fear mongering.
And then Bittman goes on to attack livestock agriculture in that “animals grown for food production be treated not just better but well”.
But the fact is our animals are treated well.
Right now our animals are sheltered in environmentally controlled barns. They are not outside in -20 winter days that we have in Minnesota. Nor are they standing in snow banks up to their ears, or at risk of breaking a leg in mud puddles created after a drenching summer thunderstorm. No, they are inside barns with fans running and sprinklers turned on to keep them cool during those hot summer days and they are in 70-degree temperatures during dangerous Minnesota blizzards. They receive individual basic care as well as individualzed health care. The food they eat is based on their specific nutritional needs. They are safe from predators. In my eyes, this is my definition of well-cared for.
Also in Bittman’s column he states that well-cared for animals will be more expensive, and as a result, we will eat fewer of them. They will use fewer antibiotics. They’ll be produced by more farmers, in more places, and eat less grain, which will allow more land to be used for fruits and vegetables. Well, that sounds like a simple solution. But, unfortunately, our food system is very complex and there are no simple solutions.
It is important that people research their own facts using credible sources. One source I would recommend is FoodDialogues. This website is a great source of information in regards to our food production system. Anyone can ask questions or voice their concerns about food.
Meat does not need to be more expensive, but it will be if we impose unnecessary regulations on farmers. But most important, people should be allowed to choose what they want to eat. We do not need food police. We should all have the choice whether to eat traditionally, organic, local or any other method.
So let’s stop the rhetoric Mr. Bittman and start looking at some real research from real scientists and real experts. You may actually learn that farmers are doing a good job. Room for improvement? Always. We know we need to be more transparent, we know we need more conversations with consumers but we will still listen to and acknowledge science as our driving force for a safe, abundant and affordable food for everyone.