“Combining vegetables with meat makes them much more interesting, and this is historically how people ate,” Bittman told ABC News (a Times online news partner). “Meat and fish were treasures. They were treats. They were things you couldn’t count on. It’s only in the past 50 years that you could count on putting meat on the table every night and every day.”
Fine, but here’s the part that gets me.
Bittman makes a big deal out of the fact that eating less meat has helped him improve his health.
“I lost 35 pounds, my cholesterol level went down below 200, which is where it’s supposed to be, and [my] blood sugar went down to where it’s supposed to be,” he said.
Dude, I got a news flash for you: Lose 35 pounds any which way—dieting, working out, fasting—and all your baseline health parameters will look way better. We already know that obesity is the nation’s single biggest health challenge, and it’s common knowledge that nearly every chronic health problem—diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis—improves markedly when people shed those excess pounds.
It’s not about cutting back on beef, it’s about shrinking your BMI.
But such obvious conclusions aren’t good enough for Bittman and his cohorts, though. Instead, ABC News Nightline producers engaged celebrity chef Angelo Sosa, a “committed omnivore,” as he likes to be labeled, to go on the “less-meatarian” diet and see what happens.
Here’s the kicker: He did it for three whole days, meaning he had to curb the meat and amp up the veggies “for a full 72 hours” (the show’s characterization, not mine).
Wow. And you thought The Great Escape was challenging.
So what happened? I’m sure you can predict the outcome.
After his 72-hour, life-changing ordeal, Sosa said, “I’m excited. I’m energized. I feel like I don’t need to be weighed down.”
Now he’s a convert to the less-meatarian diet, which is fine, but the one factor nobody considers in these “now-I’m-eating-less-meat-and-I-love-it” scenarios is the source of all those fruits and veggies we’re supposed to be substituting for beef, pork and chicken.
Who’s growing all that produce? Where’s it coming from, given its year-round availability? How sustainable is the current system of sourcing fresh foods from around the globe? And how “natural” a diet is it, really, if we’re subsisting on jet-freighted produce grown somewhere across the world in tropical climates using the same outsourcing business model that has devastated domestic manufacturing?
Don’t expect answers to any of those questions from either veggie activists or the less-meatarian crowd.
Ain’t gonna happen.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.