Q. What about farmers who confine animals in bad environments and who pollute?
A. Obviously, doing so is not their goal. Their goal is usually to stay on the family farm. Industrial farming or getting out of farming altogether is often a choice they are given. Farmers are responsible for their choices, but it’s not the farmer’s fault that he’s faced with this dilemma.
Q. Whose fault is it?
A. It’s caused by people who will drive across town to buy a box of the cheapest frozen meat they can find at a big box store. We’re all part of this system—people who demand the cheapest food prices in the world.
Q. Should CAFOs, or animal factories as you call them, be abolished?
A. I’m not actually advocating a specific course of action in the book, but I don’t think they’ll just disappear. Too much of our food comes from them. It’s ultimately the marketplace that’s going to decide.
Q. So consumers rather than government will choose how animals become food?
A. Right. Look at gasoline marketing. People will buy a certain brand because it makes their cars run better. We have motors, too. When I buy chicken, I’m willing to pay $6 for chicken that was raised well, without unnecessary drugs and additives, rather than $3 for chicken from an animal factory. It’s healthier, better fuel.
Q. What about older people on fixed incomes, or big families, or those who want to go on vacation rather than eat boutique chicken?
A. People should make their own choices. It’s your right and your privilege, and I’m not telling you what to eat. But what I think is going to happen regardless is that prices for industrially produced food will rise as the need to rein in these environmental and health problems becomes more apparent.
Q. Could prices for sustainably produced food fall with growing popularity?
A. I think so. In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, the food co-ops, farmers markets and restaurants that serve locally grown food are packed. If that spreads, the market will drive increased production of these kinds of foods.
Q. What should someone who wants to kick the industrial ag habit do?
A. You should find small, independent community-based farmers in your area and support them. Take the kids to the farm once in a while so they can see where their food comes from. You can buy them a share in the farm—literally buy them a sustainably produced pig. They’ll learn respect for animals, the land, water and what they put in their bodies.
Chris Carroll is a writer from Maryland.