We've learned to want everything big. But small is more efficient—and cuter, especially when it comes to beef.
It doesn't really matter how you feel about confined animal feeding operations, feedlots, or any other unsustainable farming practice. Why? Because they're unsustainable and by their very definition doomed to obsolescence. The thing that most pro-factory farming advocates will bellow right after a statement like this is "How can we feed the world if we don't grow animals in CAFOs?" Well, number one, we're all going to have to get used to the idea that we will need to eat less meat, but beyond that we're also going be forced to get a little more crafty about raising animals.
Oddly, I think the future might look a lot like the past: commons, greenbelts, and parks in rural, suburban, and perhaps even urban America completely free of lawn mowers you ride on and weedwhackers and instead replaced by small roving herds of sheep and cattle. There's just one problem with this picture—modern American cattle are way too big to be useful trimming the verge in Central Park.
Americans in the 20th century really liked everything big: big cars, big hair, and big cattle. Between 1900 and today the average carcass weight of a steer slaughtered in the U.S. nearly doubled. Angus that used to clock hot weights in the 500- to 600-pound range are dressing out at as much as 1100 pounds just a hundred years later! America's cattle have been bred to be taller and longer by crossing in European bloodlines like the gargantuan Chianina (giant Italian draught oxen) and others to achieve the biggest possible frame to hang feedlot meat on.