Saddle up, folks: Today’s episode involves the cowboys' lullabies and meat riots that helped make beef an American birthright. With the help of Joshua Specht, author of Red Meat Republic, we tell the story of how and why the 30 million bison that roamed the Plains were replaced with 30 million cows. You'll never look at a Porterhouse steak—the first cut of beef invented in America—the same way again.
Cowboys and cattle. Dawson County, Nebraska. 1938, courtesy the Library of Congress.
Joshua Specht is an assistant professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, where he studies politics and institutions in 19th century America through the lens of political ecology. Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America is his first book.
The porterhouse steak—a giant version of the T-bone steak.
Bison skulls piled up to be turned into glue, fertilizer, or ink at the Michigan Carbon Works near Detroit, in 1892. From the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.
Click here for a transcript of the show. Please note that the transcript is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.