In Cowed, globally recognized environmentalists Denis and Gail Boyer Hayes offer a revealing analysis of how our beneficial, centuries-old relationship with bovines has evolved into one that now endangers us.
Long ago, cows provided food and labor to settlers taming the wild frontier and helped the loggers, ranchers, and farmers who shaped the country’s landscape. Our society is built on the backs of bovines who indelibly stamped our culture, politics, and economics. But our national herd has doubled in size over the past hundred years to 93 million, with devastating consequences for the country’s soil and water. Our love affair with dairy and hamburgers doesn’t help either: eating one pound of beef produces a greater carbon footprint than burning a gallon of gasoline.
Denis and Gail Hayes begin their story by tracing the co-evolution of cows and humans, starting with majestic horned aurochs, before taking us through the birth of today’s feedlot farms and the threat of mad cow disease. The authors show how cattle farming today has depleted America’s largest aquifer, created festering lagoons of animal waste, and drastically increased methane production.
In their quest to find fresh solutions to our bovine problem, the authors take us to farms across the country from Vermont to Washington. They visit worm ranchers who compost cow waste, learn that feeding cows oregano yields surprising benefits, talk to sustainable farmers who care for their cows while contributing to their communities, and point toward a future in which we eat less, but better, beef. In a deeply researched, engagingly personal narrative, Denis and Gail Hayes provide a glimpse into what we can do now to provide a better future for cows, humans, and the world we inhabit. They show how our relationship with cows is part of the story of America itself.