Farms, in the traditional sense, look very different from the CAFO world. Here animals are treated humanely. (Photo: Jason Houston.)

CAFO devotes a substantial section to showing us what authentic, sustainable farms look like. Here the owners allow animals freedom to live normalized lives and act as shepherds of the flock. Both man and beast enjoy improved conditions, no one is forced into a crate for months, or forced onto an assembly line. Diversity is the operative word on a farm.

Can this time-honored way of producing food create enough for today’s burgeoning populations? Joel Salatin, a farmer and small farm advocate in Virginia, thinks so. It will require de-centralizing the system and bringing small operations together into regional distribution systems. It will take transparency and a new appreciation of whole foods and policies that support farming instead of industrialization. But it can be done.

“No culture has so quickly and completely decimated its agrarian base as the United States. We now have nearly twice as many Americans in prison as we have farmers, and our nation’s leaders are proud of this statistic,” writes Salatin, who raises livestock using rotational grazing and other alternative methods. His Polyface Farm networks with other producers of livestock and vegetables to send out trucks with a diversity of offerings for buyers. Consumers, he argues, can help change the current system by withdrawing their support and instead patronizing alternatives. They should eat only “pasture-based, locally grown and processed meat, poultry and eggs.”