Americans love cows. The United States possesses an entire economic sector geared for rearing, feeding, slaughtering, shipping, and eating the big-eyed ruminants. So all-encompassing is the American cattle-industrial complex that it helps determine what crops are grown on what land, what is done with the waste materials from chemical and food processing, the composition of soils, the purity of air and water, and the health effects of eating your dinner. How has the American love of cows come to shape our world so profoundly? Historian and anthropologist Nicole Welk-Joerger seeks answers in her research on cattle and sustainability in the United States. Taking a dual approach that involves ethnographic fieldwork and historical research in the archive, Dr. Welk-Joerger traces the growth of the livestock feed industry from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, to its dominance of the economic scene in the early twenty-first century. Key to this history is the changing ideas Americans had about their cattle, from hooved factories to sacred objects, which demonstrates how we became a ruman nation.
In support of her research, Dr. Welk-Joerger received the NEH-Hagley post-doctoral fellowship.
The audio only version of this program is available on our podcast.
Interview available at https://www.hagley.org/research/history-hangout-nicole-welk-joerger.
Recorded on Zoom and available anywhere once they are released, our History Hangouts include interviews with authors of books and other researchers who have use of our collections, and members of Hagley staff with their special knowledge of what we have in our stacks. We began the History Hangouts earlier this summer and now are releasing programs every two weeks on alternate Mondays. Our series is part of the Hagley from Home initiative by the Hagley Museum and Library. The schedule for upcoming episodes, as well as those already released, is available at https://www.hagley.org/hagley-history-hangout.
Carol Ressler Lockman