Hayes, Denis and Gail. 2015. Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment. W.W. Norton & Company.
I’ve read many books on cows such as Montgomery’s “A Cow’s life: the surprising history of cattle”, Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, and Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, so I hesitated to buy yet another book about cows. But I’m so glad I did. Not only is the writing lively and interesting, but much has happened in ranching and dairy cattle operations since I last read about cows. And it’s a big picture view that goes way beyond cattle to the ecosystems they affect.I have a soft spot for cows after staying on a 200-acre cattle ranch in Belize. The rancher had a name for each of one of the cows in his herd, and had stories about them all. They had sweet dispositions and huge liquid brown eyes– I could see how you could come to love them. Towards the end of the first day he confessed he hated to kill them and rarely did — they were his friends. He made enough money from cashews and other crops so that he could afford not to kill them, and maybe cow “fertilizer” was the secret of his crop success, saving their lives.
My affection for these cows caused me to skim the sections about the horrible ways corporate agriculture treats cows. I was shocked to learn how little has been done since Temple Grandin and many others brought attention to the brutal way cattle were treated and slaughtered.
The main goal of this book is to get people and their pets to eat less beef so we can cut the number of cattle in half, get rid of concentrated animal feed operations (CAFO), and grass fed cattle to prevent them from turning ranch land into desert, poison aquifers, increase global warming gases, contribute to dead zone eutrophication, and use less fossil fuel energy.
And believe me, you will want to eat only organic grass-fed beef for a long time (hopefully for the rest of your life) after you read this book when you learn about all the hormones, antibiotics, and multidrug-resistant microbes like Campylobacter, Salmonella, Enterococcus, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus that might be in your next steak or hamburger.
Can we curb our addiction to BEEF? Never was it more necessary!