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 a writer/photographer exploring "cowboy" cultures around the world. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow, he traveled through Russia and Kazakhstan where farmers have been working to rebuild their cattle industries. Back in the U.S., Ryan works freelance and teaches as an adjunct professor of creative nonfiction at The University of Montana.

About the Blog

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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