Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

He's raised on grass and hay and lives happily on a pasture by the ocean. His meat is free of antibiotics, but can we afford to eat it? We can't afford not to

Jonathan Sprague / Redux for TIME

One of more than 100 cattle on Bill Niman's California property, home of an ongoing experiment in sustainable ranching.

Correction Appended: Aug. 20, 2009

Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with...

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