She's been pushed hard in that direction by Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appetit's co-founder and CEO, who as a member of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production visited so-called factory farms and saw their impact on animals and the environment. Bauccio told Tim Carman of The Washington Post:
I really believe that everything stems from factory farms. Everything from the issues of safe food to public health to the dead zones in the ocean to what seeps into the waterways. It's disgusting.
Disgusting it may be, but time and money will be required to change the way pigs and chickens are raised. As York noted in an insightful blog post at Civil Eats, a website about the politics of food:
most pigs are raised by quasi-independent smaller producers, not corporate-owned hog farms. These guys have made capital investments in these hideous confinement technologies and it will take serious money to make changes -- the kind of capital that isn't readily available unless their giant corporate pork-contract holders extend them credit to make changes.
Helene told me that the company's goal isn't to create an alternative food system that is small-scale and humane but to change the way business is done at industry giants like Smithfield Foods (which has promised to phase out gestation crates by 2017), Seaboard Foods and Tyson. Like it or not, big farms are more efficient, she notes:
Much as I hate to admit it, we actually need the big producers in this mix. Many people deeply believe that our food system would be vastly improved if we just went back to our agrarian past of small farmers. Yet that's not how most people are going to feed themselves. It's too expensive, at least for the foreseeable future.
Interesting, all of this corporate activity is unfolding as Americans are eating less meat. Beef, chicken and pork consumption are all falling. That's encouraging.
I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm eating less meat for a host of reasons. I'd like to cut back further. As Michael Pollan memorably advises: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." And hey, if Bill Clinton, once famed for his love of Big Macs and fried chicken, can go vegan, anyone can.
Cow photo via Shutterstock.