While it’s easy to laud the small, organic farmer who operates on a limited and sustainable system, it is significantly more difficult to celebrate the large-scale producers. In most food politics discussions, two scenarios dominate opposite sides of the spectrum. First, the bucolic countryside: sustainable, holistic, and positively seraphic. In this setting cows are grass-fed, chickens are free-range and passionate workers harvest the produce. In the alternate setting, smog-spitting machines populate the landscape. Here, animals are treated as machines; void of emotions like pain and fear, or tactile awareness. In the public consciousness, the proprietors of these farms are polar opposites as well.

But filmmaker Graham Meriwether blurs the distinction between the evil, corporate-run factories and the small organic producer with his new documentary American Meat. While his original intentions for the film were to outline sustainable farmer Joel Salatin—famously interviewed in the expository film Food Inc.—Meriwether began to explore industrial-sized farms as well, and examine the challenges these owners face.

“We spent the next couple of years filming at industrial chicken farms, hog farms, cattle ranches and feedlots,” explains Meriwether in an interview with Organic Connections. “It totally changed our perspective. We realized that it wasn’t just evil versus good—all the farmers in America are simply trying to make a living and keep their farms going. Some of them ended up in commodity farming, and some of them have mixed feelings about that.”

Read more in Organic Connections.