On September 12, Mark Bittman announced his departure from the New York Times food editorial section, at least as a standing columnist. Bittman is moving on to greener pastures—quite literally—having relocated to the Bay Area and joined a food start-up devoted to making “it easier for people to eat more plants.” Bittman also adds in his farewell article that he believes he has fully aired his views on social issues concerning food (sustainability, the environment, animal welfare) and that continuing in this vein would be redundant.
Piece Meal can’t help but feel a bit smug that Bittman is ditching New York for Northern California. And our curiosity has been piqued about his new role at this mysterious year-old food company where he intends to put his “philosophy into action.” Yet his column in the Times will be sorely missed and frankly, we are disappointed by his rationale that he has no more to say on the subjects on which he has been opining for the past five years.
The fact remains that responsible, ecological, and humane farming practices are still pretty niche, even in regions of the country boasting a prominent slow food movement. Conventional farming and ranching methods still dominate the agricultural industry and it is only through changes in consumer eating philosophies and habits that this profit-driven industry will improve its standards and practices.
Bittman’s proselytizing through a widespread media outlet like the New York Times was a unique opportunity to foster the social awareness necessary to facilitate large-scale change, albeit over time. There remains vast room for improvement in agribusiness and the repetition of a redundant message may be the very key to evolution. We are sorry to see Mark Bittman pack up his mic and sincerely hope that the New York Times finds a new voice for the soap box soon.