Jayson Whitehead has a long, good read in C-Ville (the Charlottesville, Virginia weekly) about independent farmers struggling to sell their meat under onerous federal regulations. Whitehead quotes farmer Elizabeth Van Deventer:
"The question all consumers should be asking is this: Why is it legal for corporate factory farms to sell meat from livestock that have been fed arsenic as an appetite stimulant, the remains of other animals, urea from natural gas, chicken feathers, hormones and daily doses of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying from their sick surroundings? This factory farmed meat, where animals are packed together by the tens of thousands in disease-ridden environments, is given the stamp of approval by the USDA to appease their powerful corporate clients. Double H's pigs, by contrast, live their lives roaming outside in fresh air, they are given natural, locally produced grains, and are processed by Richard himself, a lifelong butcher.
"We are fooled by the 'assurance' of a USDA inspector when the meat itself is unhealthy to eat in the first place. E. coli contamination and Mad Cow disease are the result of intensive, confined cattle practices and no USDA inspection could prevent that. It's time to change the laws. If I want to buy healthy pork from Double H and not from a corporate farm's mistreated, unhealthy, factory pigs, that should be my right."
There's a happy ending, though: Joel Salatin, a farmer discovered by Chipotle owner Steve Ellis after his inclusion in The Omnivore's Dilemma, cuts a deal to sell his pork to local branches of the megachain. "I can go down and see these animals, two weeks later they are slaughtered and three days later being marinated so that you can go over and have a Carnitas burrito four days later."