Human Journey

Home, Home on the…Steppes?

PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL
Russian herdsman Leonid Agibalov worked alongside a team of Montana cowboys to help build a cattle ranch. Photograph by Ryan Bell.

A great migration is underway in the world of ranching. Cowboys from the United States, Canada, and Australia are taking cattle by the thousands to Russia and Kazakhstan. Why? To help solve major food security problems.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Kazakhstan’s cattle populations dropped by 50 percent. These countries spend U.S. $4 billion a year importing red meat to feed their people. To reverse the trend, their governments loaned $10 billion for their farmers to import breeding cattle, equipment, and cowboy expertise.

For the next nine months I will journey through Russia and Kazakhstan researching their emergent beef industries. I’ll collect data to measure how well these countries are meeting their food security goals. I’ll visit grocery stores, restaurants, and kitchens to understand beef’s role in the local cuisines.

Along the way, I’ll write about the adventure for National Geographic’s Voices and The Plate blogs.

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Ryan Bell is an award-winning journalist living in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State. A former cowboy and adventure guide, Ryan is specialized in examining how agriculture impacts the natural world. He is a two-time National Geographic Explorer who, in 2015-2016, traveled for nine months through Russia and Kazakhstan for his project Comrade Cowboys. In 2018, he will explore the mountains of Uzbekistan where an international team of archaeologists have made a discovery that could rewrite the history of the Ancient Silk Road. Elsewhere, Ryan’s work has been published by NPR, Columbia Journalism Review, Bloomberg, Outside Magazine, among others.

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Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

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