Related to This Book


The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment

Denis Hayes (Author), Gail Boyer Hayes (Author)


From leading ecology advocates, a revealing look at our dependence on cows and a passionate appeal for sustainable living.

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.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • March 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-393-23994-2
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 400 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

Cowed has made me think long and hard about how big agriculture can learn from little agriculture…. There is little doubt that the problems described in Cowed require attention and creativity, and that a healthy meat-raising industry would look significantly different from what we have today.” — Temple Grandin, Pacific Standard

“[A] valuable contribution to the study of where we—and our cattle—are headed.” — Max Watman, Wall Street Journal

“Vegetarians and vegans will champion Cowed, but so will those with ethical concerns about the future of sustainable American agriculture, soon placing it on the same shelf as Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.” — Gwendolyn Elliott, Seattle Weekly

“[A] comprehensive look at how the once-beneficial human-bovine partnership has tipped in favor of the cows, complete with suggestions about how we might begin to even out the scales—for all of our sakes.” — Lindsey Abrams, Salon

“[C]lear, direct and well researched…the book’s thought-provoking discussion of cows’ effects on our country and foods we largely take for granted is timely and well presented.” — Irene Wanner, Seattle Times

“This far-ranging and deeply researched book details the damage of factory farming to the planet and to humans—and with a lot of sympathy for the cows.” — Tom Zelman, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] richly researched overview. Marshalling numerous case studies, [Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes] show how humanity could shift from industrial farming to scaled-down, scientifically backed, sustainable animal husbandry.” — Nature

“[A] broad and breezy introduction to the general state of the American cow…If you needed to explain to a non-comprehending parent why you are becoming a vegetarian, for example, Cowed would probably go over more smoothly than, say, the legendarily hyperbolic Diet for a New America.” — Heather Smith, Grist

“An in-depth explanation of America’s relationship with cows—which is deeper, and more dangerous, than you think.” — Literary Hub

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