Nicole Welk-Joerger

High Meadows Environmental Institute Fellow, Princeton University

2021 to 2022
Albert M. Greenfield Research Fellow

Rumen Nation: An Environmental History of the United States

"Rumen Nation" uses debates about the place of cattle in the U.S. food system as a model for understanding how humans make sense of what is healthy for themselves, others, and their planet. Drawing from archival research across seven different institutions and ethnographic fieldwork with farmers, scientists, feed companies, and cattle, I reveal the ways Americans have attempted to control various economic and ecological issues—from food insecurity to atmospheric pollution—through scientific research and business investment into ruminant nutrition science. Focused on unlocking the secrets of the ultimate food “conversion machine,” an intricate network of universities, chemical businesses, pharmaceutical companies, and agribusinesses formed under the guise of creating a more “efficient” and “sustainable” food system. This message continues to impact farmer perceptions of environmental issues today.