BEEF Daily

Mark Bittman Tells Dr. Oz We Should Be Vegan Before 6 (VB6)


A new book by Mark Bittman (VB6) calls for people to be part-time vegans.

I’m not sure Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist, pleased anyone when he appeared on the Dr. Oz Show last week to promote his new book, “Vegan Before 6” (VB6). VB6 basically encourages folks to become “part-time vegans.” Of course, vegans are outraged because to follow the vegan diet and lifestyle requires an all-or-nothing approach. And, I’m a little perplexed that Bittman is proposing that we would all be healthier if we were vegan “most of the time.”

According to Dr. Oz, “The program has just one simple rule: Avoid meat and dairy from breakfast until dinnertime. Instead, load up on foods that are packed with nutrients, not calories – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils. When dinnertime rolls around, however, you can eat whatever you'd like. The plan is easy, doesn't require a lot of sacrifice and works: Mark lost 36 lbs. after just four months of eating vegan during the day.”

After a reader tipped me off about this program last week, I checked out the interview online.

Here are some real gems (that’s sarcasm, by the way) from Bittman’s interview with Dr. Oz:

• “If you look at the process from corn to cattle, we could be doing much, much better by the animals we raised and by fellow human beings if we eat much more responsibly and consciously. I think the way of eating I have developed has been good for my health, the planet and my pants size.

• “Two things have surprised me. One is the really tragic way we are treating the environment and the animals, and the terrible effect it is having on our health right now. And, the other is that we’re not particularly alarmed about it.

• “I eat a strict vegan diet -- real whole foods, really good for you -- until dinnertime, and then I let her rip. If you are willing to eat real, whole healthy until 6 p.m., we can do the things we like to do at night. Have a glass of wine; have a steak.”

Furthermore, in other interviews promoting VB6, Bittman continues to take jabs at farmers and ranchers. In quotes pulled from The Huffington Post, Bittman says, “Of all the changes you can make to your diet, eating fewer animal products has the most dramatic impact on the health of the planet because eating meat is a top cause of global warming; depletes land, water, energy, and mineral resources; requires 80% of all antibiotics produced in the U.S.; and more. To live more environmentally, we should be cutting back on our meat intake.

“Animals grown in factory farms live in horrific conditions. They're drugged, mutilated, and denied the opportunity to fulfill every natural instinct. So eating less meat (and boycotting factory-farmed meat entirely) also allows us to live out our universally shared opposition to factory farms, which treat animals as if they were widgets, with little to no care for their welfare."

Plain and simple, Bittman is using fiction and emotion to sell copies of VB6.

Frankly, I’ve never met a rancher who treats his animals as Bittman describes. Watch this video, “Animal Welfare: Why It Is Always Important To You,” featuring comments from Dan Thomson, Kansas State University veterinarian.

What’s more, the wastefulness he describes in meat production can be debunked in this blog post, “Clearing The Air On Cattle And The Environment.”

Additionally, his reference to antibiotic use in meat production causing antibiotic resistance in humans also raised my B.S. flag. Burt Rutherford offers some answers in this December 2012 article, “Overcoming Antibiotic Resistance Is A Tough Task.”

I think Bittman has to rely on ruffling feathers to sell copies of his book. After all, recipe suggestions from VB6 include dishes like scrambled tofu with spinach and eggplant un-parmesan. It stands to reason that VB6 isn’t advocating for veganism (sorry, tofu lovers), as much as calling for portion control. In a nutshell, Bittman says you can eat fruits and vegetables to your heart’s desire because they are low-calorie foods. He saves the rich, calorie-dense items (which also make the vitamins in fruits and vegetables more absorbable) for dinner time. This means that, at dinner, he is getting the protein and fats he needs for brain function, energy and cell repair. Although I haven’t read VB6, I suspect the diet plan is simply a fancy way of reducing calories for folks to lose weight.

Bittman is playing on two hot topics right now -- veganism and obesity. Diet books are major sellers right now. Just walk into any bookstore, and you’ll notice rows and rows of new and improved meal plans, all designed to reduce inches and lower that number on the scale. Bittman isn’t a nutritionist or a doctor; he is a sensationalist journalist who wears a chef’s hat, on occasions. With those qualifications, you or I could also pen a diet book. Of course, without the celebrity status or endorsement of Dr. Oz, it might be tough to sell too many copies.

Don't be too upset with Dr. Oz, however. Tomorrow, he'll probably have another new and exciting way for folks to lose weight and be healthy. His endorsements sometimes tend to be a bit like the weather here in South Dakota -- constantly changing.

What do you think about Bittman’s “Vegan Before 6” book? How would you counteract some of the statements he made in his interviews? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 26

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 7, 2013

Times are changing and SD will have a rude awakening!

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

I really wish people would learn more about farming and ranching on a factual basis before they go spreading Bull (no pun intended). Cattle do not deplete mineral resources or hurt land, in fact, they are beneficial to it. God put animals here to live off and enhance the land. People that never get out of the city and spread these rumors seem to want to convert it to a concrete jungle. Global warming did not start to be an issue until man made pollutants started becoming an issue. Ignorance is contagious-go educate yourselves before you listen to what other people claim and call it gospel.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 14, 2013

The issue is factory farming, not all cows. You're right, ignorance is contagious, and you seem to have caught quite the dose. You can absolutely raise cows in a way that doesn't harm the environment, you're right about that. However there are methods to factory farming that do cause serious damage to our planet and to deny that is to say that sky is purple, not blue.

Bea Elliott (not verified)
on May 7, 2013

All vegans are not "outraged" by understanding that some folks just need to go the route of incremental change towards an end goal. I know plenty of people who went vegan after a year of "meatless Mondays" in which they added one extra vegan day per month. As they've described it - It's a very painless way to "ease in" especially if you make "meatless" serve as leftovers during the second day. Who doesn't want to get out of cooking for a night?

I also know people who've followed VB6 and eventually realized they did quite well without the animal products all day... So an extra night, or two (or three) being vegan "all day" didn't hurt either.

No meaningful change is going to happen over night. But one thing's for certain - Change is guaranteed and inevitable.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 14, 2013

You're right, not ALL vegas are outraged, but some absolutely are. Just read the amazon reviews for Bittman's book. It's just that percentage of vegans who are self-righteous morons that are going to actively look for things to criticize.

on May 8, 2013

While I appreciate people having a discussion about Bittman's book, much of your article is inaccurate.

Most of the vegans I know, myself included, are not "all-or-nothing". I know my transition took a lot of time, and the same goes for many others.

I'm not sure why you're perplexed that Bittman is encouraging people to consume more fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains if they want to get healthy. That's exactly what they should be doing.

Animal products cause inflammation in the body. That fact has been documented many times over. If you need to reduce inflammation, then plants can help you do that. Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Ornish, Dr. Hyman, Dr. Oz, and a multitude of other medical doctors have all proven this time and time again.

Additionally, you and your fellow ranchers may not mistreat your animals, but you also cannot claim ignorance of those who do. That is just as well documented (and probably more so). Instead, why not take a stand with your fellow ranchers and farmers and demand that everyone in your industry treat their animals with respect and kindness rather than trying to pretend nothing is wrong?

On top of that, it is very well documented at this point that animal products are NOT necessary for healthy protein and fat intake. Nuts, seeds, and even vegetables are rich in protein, fiber, fat, AND reduce inflammation and help heal cellular function. If you choose to eat meat for the protein, then that's fine. But a small 4 oz. portion at a meal is more than enough if you're eating a balanced diet (just check out the longevity studies).

I respect the fact that you need to go to bat for your industry, that you feel strongly about the importance of animal products in your diet because it's your livelihood; however, instead of writing a biased article that is full of sweeping generalizations and incorrect information, you would do so much better to instead host an informed decision that might actually win you some respect from the veg community.

I agree with Bea. Change is guaranteed as we learn more and more about healthy cellular function, nutrition, and disease - plants will be the way we heal ourselves. The meat industry will have to change if it wants to survive, so show a little compassion and responsibility.

Nebraska farm/ranch wife (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

I appreciate the fact that you responded in a collect and civil manner instead of slinging mud at the opposition. Personally I think that both sides of this spectrum could handle a whole lot of education. Biology is not an easy subject to digest (no pun intended) and to have a grasp on. But here is the way I see things. Most generally when you completely sacrifice something as a whole it has a ripple effect. Do I think that the U.S has a gluttony problem when it comes to meal proportions. Yes I do, and yes I am probably guilty of it as well. Not pointing fingers at all. But saying that ranchers generally don't mistreat their animals but should do a better job of demanding all ranchers follow safe cattle handling protocol is slightly ludicrous to me because it goes back to the concept that we have laws against murder of our own human kind and it still goes on. People still murder even though the general population demands that it not happen...... People need to accept the fact that there are going to be bad people out there weather they are a thief, murderer, or animal abuser, and the best that we can do is put information out there to encourage the more proper behaviors in life. I don't mean to be flippant in this either because yes animal abuse is a terrible thing but you can only do so much with education and getting information out there to people that there are safer ways to handle animals and to implement those practices. Beef Quality Assurance is a fantastic program the promotes safe cattle handling practices, and it involves the local extension agencies as well as local veterinarians. Personally I think this mud slinging back and fourth between vegans and the livestock industry is just straight up silly. I don't tell you how to eat so please don't be presumptuous enough to tell me and mine how to eat. It goes back to the concept of us being a free country still and being able to make my own choices and your own choices about what I want to eat.
I also have a really hard time following the credibility of the medical profession on certain issues. Because if you look back historically they are constantly changing their theory about what is best for us. Take breast feeding for example. Back in the 50's doctors discouraged breast feeding because they didn't believe that it was best for the babies. How do I know this, I have talked to several women that gave birth back in that time frame and they have told me the same thing. Their doctors discouraged breast feeding and even went as far a binding their breasts to keep their milk from coming in. Now I ask you what is the general theory on breast fed babies??? Take the egg. At one time it was supposed to be the leading cause of heart attach in people and a horrible food source for people to eat. And then 15 years later it became the incredible edible egg, and doctors were promoting eggs as a great source of vitamins and protein. Now we have changes again to egg whites only which is the least nutritious part of the egg..... Do you see where I am going with this. I have a hard time putting my faith in a group of people that every 5 to 10 to 15 years change their minds about a concept that they battled for so completely to change the way people eat. The way I look at it is yes you need to eat fruits and veggies. I also think meat is a fantastic way to get a lot of vitamins and minerals in a smaller serving. I can't personally eat enough veggies and fruits in a day to meet my daily requirement. It is just too much. But I do think the difference in a vegan and a non-vegan is that the vegan eaters have gotten themselves away from the processed food with additives and preservatives, and that alone is what is making the biggest difference. If you take somebody that eats all whole foods and good meat sources I would say they are just as healthy because they are not putting junk in their body. If you want to point fingers at the lethargic and nutritionally poor point that finger at the additives and preventives. We were meant to eat meat and plants but we were not meant to put chemicals and synthetics into our system, and have the body come out healthy.

on May 8, 2013

There is no doubt that the meat industry substantially fuels the health and environmental crises that face our nation. I'm not surprised that this beef homer is defending it.

leanin' H (not verified)
on May 8, 2013

Just because over 90% of this nation is disconnected from agriculture and gets the limited amount of information they have from biased sources does not make your position correct Scaydac! Ranchers raise one of the best, nutritious, safest sources of protein on the planet. We do it with smaller numbers of ranches every year and manage to feed more folks. We are responsible stewards of our land, animals and resources. We take great pride in our livelyhoods and the products we provide to a hungry planet. I am insulted that you would come to a website like ours and slander our industry. The pollution, the enviromental crisis and the over-whelming majority of obese folks live in big cities far from rural America where we raise YOUR food. For you to spout off the way you did, shows your lack of intelligence at best and true hypocrisy at the worst. Either way, you have zero credibility. If you want to be a vegan, good for you! But why must you FORCE everyone else to follow what you do? And why must you lie to do it?

My hat is off to farmering and ranching families who feed the world. The only folks whining and complaining have full bellys. The hungry folks might see things different! Go get em' Amanda. We have your back! :)

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 8, 2013

Well, lets see, who is more likely to be unbiased - a world renowned chef and author, or "Beef Magazine"?

on May 9, 2013

Being a "world renowned chef" doesn't make him a nutritionist.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

I don't agree with sensationalism, or an all-or-nothing approach. I do agree that people should be eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, unsaturated oils, etc. most of the time. I love beef, and I also love cattle. So, in my moderate/limited meat consumption, I choose to support local producers,such as yourself, who raise their cattle in a humane and sustainable manner rather than insulting the ranchers/farmers who do it right by eating crap food such as McDonalds, or any of the other fast food chains. I think people have to make decisions for themselves, with sound information, about what they want to eat. But unfortunately, a lot of people are looking for a quick fix, or believe the sensationalism. But there are some who don't. Let's find a happy medium for ourselves!

on May 9, 2013

You are right on the money Amanda, in spite of the comments you are receiving from people who know nothing about agriculture and livestock. And I still feel that anonymous posts should not be allowed. If you are going to comment, then register like the rest of us.

Greg (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

Holding a degree in food science and nutrition, being a rancher and raising 3 college gifted atheletes I can say Bitman is wrong. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. One should be eating a high protein. high fat diet during your most active portion of the day when your body needs energy. Save the vegan portion for the end of the day before rest. Eat like a cave man and you will all be healthier. Meat, vegetables and fruit. Leave the processed and prepared foods behind.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 23, 2013

You haven't looked much into Bittman's book. He is advocating for whole grains, that is unprocessed grains. And cavemen most definitely ate unprocessed grains. It was one of the things they gathered.

And the reason he suggests eating the non-vegan meal at night is that is our social time.

Dee (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

It's pretty much just sensationalism. There is nothing new or trendy about eating sensible portions and a lot of fruit and vegetables. The problem I have is his stance on animal agriculture in general.

R L (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

We treat our animals better than most people treat their kids, and all of the ranchers in my area do the same. I am also a school teacher, and see the damage people do with ridiculous ideas about lifestyles and diets, all the while neglecting and ignoring their children's basic needs for safety and nutrition. Beef production is a safe and reliable food source for much of the civilized world. The misconceptions about the industry arise from a few documented cases of animal mistreatment, which should not be happening, of course. But to slam an entire industry because some choose to live on the fringe, does not mean that those of us involved in feeding the world are insensitive monsters that delight in hurting animals.

Brian (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

Huff post lambasts agriculture almost daily. A good part of the information coming mostly from the left about all modern agriculture is false, but, the consumer is "the boss" when it comes right down to it. I've always been disappointed how few farmers and ranchers comment on the falsehoods perpetuated on Huff post.

On the other hand, quite a few farmers and ranchers, myself included, are alarmed at the direction ag is going. Maybe it is just a generational thing, or tradition thing, never the less, we are all entitled to our opinions. Since I quit raising hogs I eat less pork because quite frankly I don't like the industrial model of pork production, that is my right. I think we are all going to be in for a rude awakening over the coming decades as we see more and more regulations imposed on us simply because the public perceives much of what we do as "bad". Don't underestimate the power of a few vegans. As farms become bigger and bigger, and there are fewer and fewer farm owners, our political clout becomes nearly nil. Even in a rural county like mine, farm and ranch owners are a very clear minority. If it becomes rural versus town even on a county commission issue, town will always win. That is the price we pay for fewer farmers.

Dog breeder who loves ranchers (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

Bittman is quoting the same old bull (apologies to the real bulls) about meat that the animal rights activists spew that labels all dog breeders "puppy mills". Our environment is being destroyed by too many PEOPLE, not an overabundance of cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens or dogs.

I also agree that anonymous comments should not be allowed. I think you would find that the same people comment on every meat supporting article on the internet. I have been told that the animal rights folks actually PAY these folks to comment! (So much for all those dollars going to help the poor puppies and kitties in the shelter).

Weight Watchers and their banks of nutritionists stress the importance of eating good protein source at breakfast. Eggs are perfect! As some of the other sensible commenters stated, balanced, non processed, portion controlled eating combined with exercise is key in keeping weight manageable.

My education is in science and it is undeniable that humans are omnivores. Our bodies are set up to eat animal and vegetable sources. If we were meant to only eat veggies we wouldn't need Beano!

T (not verified)
on May 9, 2013

we all see what we want.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 10, 2013

I started the Bittman vegan until 6 on my own 2 years ago. My cholesterol dropped from 210 to 180 and my triglycerides are excellent. I think it works because you are eating a lot more plant food than you did before. I still enjoy whatever I want for dinner, and beef is served a few times a week (like tonight). It's just a goood way to eat more nutritious food.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 17, 2013

To your point about eating beef several times a week, I think the point of VB6 is to eat no processed foods, rather than eliminate any real foods. That's why it's not a vegan plan - he even says that some of the vegan processed foods are worse for you than the 'real' thing (think fake hot dogs, etc). In a way, I think his plan helps farmers and ranchers because he says that when you indulge, you should buy a better product instead of a cheaper one and savor what that better product offers.

So, in my mind, his idea is really more against ingredients that you can't pronounce instead of being against real products such beef raised in good environment.

on May 21, 2014

I am agree with your thoughts. I think you have a wrong concept about plant food. It is just reverse that you think. Plant foods are that we use as food for plant and it helps in plant growth and increase the productivity. Usually fertilizers are plant food in our farming world. Organic fertilizer are the best plant food among all. We can visit this link get details- plant foods

Kenny (not verified)
on May 12, 2013

Let's just rid our selves of these dastardly farmers and ranchers for good!!!!!!!!!!!! OH Yeah but what will we all eat then????

Tom Smith (not verified)
on May 13, 2013

Face it. One diet does not fit all. Whether you believe in the Holy Bible or evolution or both, we were designed to be omnivores, with incisors, cuspids and bicuspids for biting into meat and molars for grinding leafy greens and grains/seeds. Meats provide some vitamins and minerals not found in such quantities in plant sources. And plants provide some needed dietary components not found in meat. Yes, "Beef Magazine" promotes the beef industry. But the book author has a vested interest in selling books. Everyone has their own agenda. Use your brain and research the facts, and use different sources representing different viewpoints.
As for the treatment of animals, remember that very few of the employees in a livestock auction or slaughter plant are 'cowboys' or experienced in handling livestock. Most livestock auctions employ local residents willing to show up to work, to open and close gates and chase animals up and down the alleys, on the one day each week they are selling animals. Training these people in proper livestock handling techniques has to be a priority, or we will continue to get these black eyes from the media.

sacer (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2014

Face it. One diet does not fit all. Whether you believe in the Holy Bible or evolution or both, we were designed to be omnivores, with incisors, cuspids and bicuspids for biting into meat and molars for grinding leafy greens and grains/see

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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