04/28/2009 09:58 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Put Down That CAFO Pork Chop

In some ways, headlines have never been scarier. After waiting some years for the horrible promise of bird flu to materialize, instead we're now staring down the barrel of a possible swine flu pandemic.

Aside from not planning any junkets to Mexico, there's not much we can do. Right? Wrong.

First, let's just be clear. Properly-cooked pork (to 70 degrees Celsius) will not transmit swine flu. And confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have not been directly confirmed as the source of the outbreak, though conditions at these close-quarters operations (Mexico's Granjas Carroll, owned by Smithfield, processes nearly one million pigs per year) have been implicated as helping the quick spread of the contagion.

Yet there are so many reasons that CAFOs are inhumane ways to raise animals. Now seems like as good a time as any to just stop eating CAFO meats. Could we reach an eco-tipping point in saying no to CAFOs?

"An ecotipping point represents the moment in time when one or more people act, and through their actions, tip the environment in more positive direction," says the Earthwatch Institute.

Nicolette Niman says yes. Niman, a livestock rancher that also happens to be a vegetarian, has written Righteous Porkchop, Finding a Good Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms.

Niman purposefully kept the title of Righteous Porkchop a little enigmatic to help signal that she doesn't see what she calls "inherent ethical problems" with meat, though our move to vast CAFOs that prompt inhumane treatment to animals (and by extension, humans and the environment) is not sustainable.

Niman in the book charts a course out of the CAFO nightmare - by using government subsidies to make farming a full-time job on more on smaller, organic and sustainably-oriented farms.

Of course, the other side of it is we, the consumers, and our choices. By eschewing CAFO meat we would perhaps be able to afford less meat overall (Meatless Mondays, anyone?). But we would get a higher quality of protein in exchange.

Niman promotes a more seasonal approach to meat, similar to the seasonal approach locavores must take with their favorite vegetables. It's one way to start to move our food systems toward sustainability.

And Niman's next suggestion? Well, she wants to put some pastured chickens on Michelle Obama's front lawn.

Read more from TreeHugger on CAFOs, meat eating
::Pork Chops Won't Give You Swine Flu, But Here Are Other Reasons to Abstain
::Vegetarian Diet Could Cut Climate Change Mitigation Costs by 70%, If Enough of Us Make the Switch
::7 Cheap and Easy Vegetarian Meals
::Foodprint: The Surprising Ecological Footprint of a Little Meat
Future of Food: Fish Farms in Condos

Read more from Graham Hill on Huffington Post
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::Let's Do Big Lunch
::Shouldn't the G20 Just Stay Home, Skype, and Tweet?
::Mass Transit Makes You Skinny