The History Of Our Food System: What’s Wrong And How To Fix It

Episode 157 1h 5m


What do wealth inequality, chronic disease, climate change, and the industrialization of agriculture all have in common? The answer is food, and more specifically our food system.

Very few people are able to connect the dots between some of the world’s most pressing issues in a way that lets us see the big picture. My guest on today’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, Mark Bittman, is someone who does exactly that in an effort to achieve a different future for food.

The latter is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Mark asked the simple question of what a good food system would look like and recognized that what we currently have is a food system geared towards profiting a few at the expense of many. It’s also a system that simply can’t endure over time. He wrote Animal, Vegetable, Junk to look at where we are and how we’re going to get out of it.

Mark’s approach to improvement involves measured, incremental changes. We take a look back at the history behind our modern food system to understand our current situation, which includes sustained systemic racism, health disparities, and poor monocrop practices dating back to the nineteenth century.

Amidst this global pandemic, where we’re seeing huge investments and fast action to find a cure, Mark and I pause to ask why we can’t see that same eagerness in tackling the chronic disease epidemic. Those with food-related illnesses, like type 2 diabetes and obesity, are at a greater risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and death. Those same food-related chronic diseases were already an epidemic in our country, yet they receive little acknowledgment as the public health crises that they are. Mark and I discuss this and what types of interventions we need to support as part of a solution.

Mark’s key endpoints for a better food system include getting land into the hands of the people who want to farm it with sustainable and regenerative practices, producing a variety of crops that are healthy to consume, and distributing those crops locally and affordably. That won’t happen overnight, but the future of food can most certainly be brighter if we commit to doing the work and starting with small steps.

I hope you’ll tune in to this week’s episode.


This episode is brought to you by BiOptimizers, Thrive Market, and AG1. The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast works with a select group of sponsors to allow for ongoing production and allow it to be zero-cost to anyone who wishes to listen to and watch the podcast.

Topics Covered

  • Answering the question, what would a good food system look like?

    (5:17 - 9:29)

  • Looking back at the development and resulting consequences of our agricultural system

    (7:05 - 11:17)

  • Tracing today’s wealth inequality, food industrialization, and monocrop culture back to the agricultural pursuits of the nineteenth century

    (14:15 - 18:27)

  • Making measurable, incremental change to improve our modern food system

    (24:22 - 29:43)

  • What individuals can do to improve our food system

    (27:05 - 32:26)

  • The cost of failing to name that we are in a national food crisis

    (28:13 - 33:34)

  • Is Big Food rethinking its role in our food system?

    (33:08 - 38:29)

  • Incentivizing regenerative agriculture, nationally and internationally

    (35:25 - 40:46)

  • Improving national food policy

    (42:47 - 48:08)

  • The link between agriculture and climate change, and the role of animal production in climate change

    (45:09 - 50:30)

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Ep. 157 - The History Of Our Food System: What’s Wrong And How To Fix It