Connecting With John Robbins

Leaving behind a family fortune at Baskin-Robins, he and wife spend the next 10 years in a log cabin growing 95% of their own food.

John Robbins for decades has been a leader in the revolution for healthy eating while exposing the factory farms and the mistreatment of animals in America. In hoping to enlighten Americans with how this nation deals with its food policies, he is inciting urgency for us to take responsibility for our food choices and supporting life on a healthier planet. Finding that most in this country have less than a healthy diet and a vast percentage actually obese, John focuses on a means to end that cycle and improve upon the norm. It was shortly after his experience at the log cabin that Robbins wrote his best-selling book titled Diet For A New America.

What led you to turn down the family fortune at the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire?

My uncle Burt Baskin died of a heart attack at the age of 54. He ate a lot of ice cream. At that time in my life, I concluded that I didn't want to be a part of something that was connected to selling a product that could possibly undermine a person's health. It really affected me and I acted upon it.

Share with me more about our core values, what motivates us, and how that relates to our food choices.

Our food choices not only affect us as individuals, our collective food choices have an enormous effect on the environment. We live in a food culture that I experience to be profoundly toxic. It's easier to find a pack of cigarettes, a can of coke and a candy bar than a stalk of broccoli. Convenience stores are loaded with highly processed foods, high in salt and chemical additives. We've created a food environment that makes it so challenging, to say the least, in trying to maintain healthy eating. It is no wonder why our populace is obese when it becomes a challenge to find a decent, healthful meal.

How does the way animals are prepared for market affect the food that we consume?

The animals are confined to extremely small spaces, which causes immense suffering, hence the industry uses drugs as growth proponents, administered to livestock in every meal the animal eats. This enables them to survive and grow in weight. Our factory farms are producing systematically and predictable bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics we depend on to protect human health. It's the food products that are the least healthy that are readily available and inexpensive, the ones that our food policies have been subsidizing. We are paying a terrible price for our seemingly inexpensive food.

You have two opposing forces on a collision course ~ those promoting (corporate) agriculture ....genetically engineered food, and the rapidly increasing number of people concerned about their healthful food choices.

Books like your Diet For A New America and Howard Lyman's Mad Cowboy have tried to increase awareness. Where do you see the trend headed?

Sadly in two directions. there is an increasing awareness of people who want locally grown food and healthier foods, who want beef raised from a kinder, more humane environment, and an industry that is fighting it. (The Jungle) went undercover and worked in the meatpacking industry exposing the appalling working conditions on site and the terrible treatment of animals, which led to stricter federal guidelines and have helped immensely in some areas, however, by no means have the real issues been solved. In some cases mitigated for certain, but there remains a long way to go if we are to do this properly and see beneficial results across the board. 

So what are the chances of improving what seems a gigantic dilemma?

I have faith that it is possible to turn things around. If more Americans stopped overeating, stopped eating unhealthy foods, and instead at foods with higher nutrient densities and cancer-protective properties, we could have a more affordable, sustainable and effective health care system.

What are the health costs of our poor food choices and the lack of exercise?

We spend a lower percentage of our spending on food than any other nation and we spend the highest per capita on health care; no one else even comes close. Our food is the cheapest and our health care and our obesity rates are the highest. We have food policies that greatly subsidize the unhealthiest food in the world. Processed food manufacturers use the cheapest ingredients, and people are eating a lot of it.

Can you elaborate on the relationship between where we live and the type of food our bodies need?

When we eat food that is local and in season, it's fresher and more nutritious, plus it isn't shipped thousands of miles. Foods that are local and in season carry certain nutrients, which our bodies need at that particular time. There is a price that we pay for not eating locally grown food. I find that Farmer's Markets have sprung across the nation in recent years and that is a perfect way of finding healthy produce, supporting the local community and making certain that the foods we ingest are just what will make the difference.

That brings me to the subject of sustainability and our natural relationship to Mother Earth and how our food choice may affect the whole dynamic.

I think that when we treat animals badly and eat their flesh, we put misery on our menus and it most definitely comes into us. I believe that if we're going to produce meat, we should cause the least suffering possible. The industries don't wake up in the middle of the night worried about how we treat animals, but rather how they can improve their profit margin. The profit is at the expense of the animal's health and I think that we are much more interconnected with the inner web of life than we realize.

What can we as individuals do to shift the consciousness of the planet?

Take the steps in front of you that will lead on to greater health, love, and beauty for the remainder of your life.