I listened to this piece on NPR today about a new book on the history of hog farming, Pig Tales: An Omnivore's Quest for Sustainable Meat.
Sounds like an interesting read. We raise pigs on a very small scale and our pigs have access to the sun and sky and often to our pasture where they help turn the soil. Our pigs know us and come over to see us when we come near, even our rather massive boar who likes to be scratched behind his ears. We also eat them even when it is sometimes bittersweet. That is how it should be when you take responsibility for raising an animal and take responsibility for taking their life in order to eat them. We raise mostly Tamworth hogs with a couple of Berkshire and Berkshire cross sows thrown in. They definitely don't grow as fast but we are willing to trade some speed for quality and humane treatment.
The author is a little prone to exaggeration and is overly fond of litigation but his general point is correct, namely that there is a breaking point down the road where industrial agriculture is going to run into serious problems. Whether it is too much concentrated waste, disease (like the current avian flu outbreak and last year's devastating hog kill off), new strains of antibiotic resistant diseases tied to overuse of antibiotics in industrial ag or a major collapse of the distribution system, something bad is coming down the road and soon. Hopefully we as a society will wise up before that happens because a major (or even minor) disruption in the food supply would cause an explosion of social unrest that would make the looting in Baltimore look like a hug-fest.