Beefy Guy Buys Organic Bovine

  • David Hammond's inspiration to experiment with a low-carb diet. (Self portrait by David Hammond)

Each year, Americans spend tens of billions of dollars on diets and diet aids. Low carbohydrate diets like South Beach, the Zone, and Atkins are all becoming household words and companies are scrambling to cash in. As part of an ongoing series called “Your Choice, Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Hammond looks in the mirror as he investigates the potential environmental impacts of the low-carb diet:

Transcript

Each year, Americans spend tens of billions of
dollars on diets and diet aids. Low carbohydrate
diets like South Beach, the Zone, and Atkins are all
becoming household words and companies are
scrambling to cash in. As part of an ongoing series
called “Your Choice, Your Planet,” the Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s David Hammond looks in the
mirror as he investigates the potential
environmental impacts of the low-carb diet:


(sound of shower door closing, shower being turned on)


Every day it’s the same. As I wait for the shower to
warm up, I fight off an assault on my self-esteem.
First, there’s my naked reflection in the bathroom
mirror. (Ugh.) To my right, a stack of clothes that
don’t fit anymore. And in front of me, the most
damning thing of all… the bathroom scale.


I know I should ignore it, but its pull is irresistible.


Hammond: “Okay, here comes the big
moment of truth. Ohh… you gotta be kidding
me. Well, according to my scale, I am four pounds
heavier than yesterday. I don’t know how
that can be possible.”


You see, I’m fat. Not “oversized.” Not “full-figured.” Fat. I weigh 268 lbs and desperately need
to lose some weight. None of my clothes fit. My
cholesterol is through the roof. And my wife? Well, she
seems to have cornered the market on migraine
headaches.


(shower fades out)


But what kind of diet? I needed a diet that would
work within my lifestyle, not totally change it.
Because giving up meat wasn’t an option for me, I
figured low-carb was the way to go.


A recent Roper Report estimated that up to 40
million Americans were reducing their
carbohydrates.


40 million carb counters can’t be wrong, can they?


My gut told me that low-carb dieters must be
demanding more meat and poultry. But
was there an environmental impact?


For advice, I turned to the Sierra Club. They have a
program focused on concentrated animal feeding
operations — better known as factory
farms. These are operations where thousands of animals,
sometimes tens of thousands, are housed
together in relatively small spaces.


Environmentalists say the problem is their manure.
So much of it is produced, in such a small area that
simply spreading it on nearby fields can lead to
severe water pollution.


Anne Woiwode is the Director of the Sierra Club’s
office in Lansing, MI. She said that manure is not
the only problem. A bigger threat may be the
antibiotics that the animals are given to promote
their growth.


“Up to 70% of the antibiotics used in
this country right now are being fed to animals so
that they are fattened quickly. And because
animals are consuming so many antibiotics, you
are actually creating super bugs or super
bacteria.”


As far as my diet is concerned, with all this talk
about manure, bacteria, and super bugs, I wasn’t
sure that I needed to diet after all. I’d pretty much
lost my appetite.


Well, almost… it is still barbeque season after
all.


What I need is a low-carb fix that I can feel good
about. A local butcher mentioned Roseland Farm.
It’s located in southwest Michigan, near the Indiana border.
They’re one of the region’s largest, certified organic
farms. It’s a family farm. Merrill Clark is one of
the owners.


“We’re a 1,800 acre certified organic beef farm, we also
raise some grains and other garden vegetables on
a smaller scale but we are mostly known for our
beef. We’ve been, I’ll say certified organic, for
nearly 20 years.”


Certified organic means that Clark and her family
feed their cattle with crops grown without pesticides
or synthetic fertilizers. They also don’t give their
cattle antibiotics or growth hormones.


Nearly a quarter of their farm is devoted to grazing,
so the Clarks avoid the manure problems of factory
farms. They just leave the manure where it drops
and it becomes natural fertilizer.


Natural grazing also reduces the need to feed the
cattle grains like corn and soybeans. When used for
cattle feed, those grains are usually inefficient and
expensive to produce.


Even though the Clark family runs a large organic
farm, they know that in the scheme of things, they are still very small.
Merrill Clark says that’s fine.


“If some major Kroger or Meijer’s wanted to buy all of our
meat, I don’t think we would want to. We sort of
feel connected to our label and our own name and
our identity. It’s just so interesting this way. You
meet great people. Because you’re face to face with
your own customers.”


In my case, Merrill and I didn’t actually meet face-
to-face, but we bonded. We talked long after the
interview was over. And I was impressed enough to buy
a 35-lb cooler full of ground sirloin, strips, and
fillets. Enough to get me through those first few
weeks of my diet.


So even though I’m still fat, and tomorrow, the
bathroom scale was going to be just as unforgiving,
I’m starting to feel a little bit better about myself. For
the first time, I feel connected to my food. I feel a
bond to the farmer. And I feel like I was supporting
something worthwhile. And you know what, it
feels good.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David
Hammond.

Related Links

To Bag or Not to Bag Grass Clippings

  • Reporter David Hammond's yard. He has the vague notion that not bagging grass clippings is more environmentally friendly. (Photo by David Hammond)

At one point or another, most of us have had to do yard work. If it was one of your chores as a kid, you probably developed a strong aversion to it, but as some of us get older, get married, and move to the suburbs, something interesting happens. Taking care of the yard becomes important, but is there an environmental impact? As part of an ongoing series, called “Your Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Hammond takes a closer look at his own back yard:

Transcript

At one point or another, most of us have had to do yard work. If it was one of your chores as a kid,
you probably developed a strong aversion to it. But as we get older, get married, and move to the
suburbs, something interesting happens. Taking care of the yard becomes important. But is there
an environmental impact? As part of an ongoing series, called “Your Choice; Your Planet,” the
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Hammond examines his own backyard.


To bag or not to bag? That is the question. Well, at least that’s my question… on most Saturdays
say about 10am.


(lawnmower sound up far away distance)


That’s when the men of my neighborhood head outside for their weekly call to arms. It’s yard day.
And once the first mower starts, like fruit flies to a banana, everyone heads outside to do their
mowing, edging, and weeding. It’s a procession that lasts all weekend.


(lawnmower sound up close distance, up and under)


This is a new neighborhood… only a couple of years old. Everybody has put in new landscaping,
and everybody spends a lot of time taking care of their lawns. Brian Van Netta is one of my
neighbors.


“It’s the showpiece of the house. It’s the first thing that people see when they drive by and it sets the tone for the rest of the house.”


Around here, that means bagging your lawn clippings. You know the routine. Mow a couple of
strips across the yard. Stop the mower. Take the grass bag and dump it into the compost bag.
Put the grass bag back on the mower. Mow a couple more strips then dump again. Then repeat
all afternoon.


I think it’s lunacy… a waste of the weekend. Something keeping me from solving really important
issues like: Does my beer taste great or is it less filling? I’ve also have a vague notion that not
bagging is better environmentally, but I can’t back it up with facts. So I decide to investigate.


(lawnmower sound out)


First stop – Wade Martingdale. He’s a neighbor who’s worked in the landscape business. Around
here, his word carries weight. Unfortunately for me, he recommends bagging.


“If you have a real full turf grass, you know, real thick and full, that when you cut your grass, the
grass clippings are so thick that actually strangles out your grass, its doesn’t let the water get to the
roots, the air, and then what water does get to the roots, it won’t dry so it can promote disease.”


He also says bagging makes a yard look better… usually as he’s looking at my yard.


“You can’t really tell from a distance, but you can tell up close. Just like your grass has a lot of
clumps in it…” (pause… laughter)


I was getting worried. If bagging was really the best environmental and the best neighborly thing to
do, I might actually have to start. No sense getting kicked out of poker night on account of some
grass clippings, but as I looked down my street at all the 30-gallon bags waiting to be picked up, I wondered where all that waste was going.


(sound of trucks picking up waste – up and under)


Canton Waste Recycling handles all of the recycling pickups in my town. Each week, they pick up
yard waste from nearly 20,000 homes, and then haul it to a regional processing center. There it’s
turned into compost and sold to landscapers and fertilizer companies. The only caveat is that the
yard waste collected from the neighborhoods can’t have any debris in it. If there are stumps or
rocks or concrete in the compost bags, then an entire truckload can be wasted. When that
happens, it gets sent to the landfill.


(begin fading truck sound)


So assuming that folks in my neighborhood are not sneaking any dead cats into their yard waste…
bagging seems like a decent bet environmentally. Sure, there is energy used to pick up and
process the yard waste, but the program employs a dozen local people. I had to give it thumbs up.


(truck sound out)


But now, my worry had turned to panic. I could see the rest of my summer out in front of me. No
more pool. No more picnics. No more Sea Breezes at high tea. No, what I saw was a sweat-stained, fat guy lugging 30-gallon compost bags to the curb. That was going to be my summer.
Hell, it was going to be the rest of my summers.


My last hope was The Huron River Watershed Council. They’re a local environmental group and
have developed a lawn care tip sheet. As I read through it, I started to feel the ol’ fun quotient
starting to rise. That’s because the tip sheet recommended not bagging your clippings. That is, if
you mulched them well when you cut them. Laura Rubin is the Executive Director.


“By leaving them there, they are sort of leaching those nutrients right back into the soil. So when
you mulch them, and you leave them, they just naturally put those nutrients back into the ground
and that’s what the soil needs.”


Rubin says that those added nutrients would allow me to save money because I wouldn’t have to
buy as much fertilizer. I also wouldn’t have to buy the composting bags. Rubin added that she’s
not against community compost programs. Just that leaving the clippings was a simpler
alternative.


“Community-wide composting programs are great and if you have a good one, you can’t go wrong.
It’s just changing the waste stream to a different area, but I don’t want to stress that there’s sort of
a ‘good way’ and a ‘bad way.’ If you send it to a composting program, you are still recycling and composting
that up rather than bagging it, and sending it to the landfill is the worst.”


So in the great bagging debate, it seems that both sides can claim the environmental high ground.
As long as I mulch my lawn clippings well, I can continue not bagging in good conscience. And for
the hardy souls who do bag? You’re good too. In fact, next Saturday, as I watch you schlepping
all those bags to the curb, I’ll tip a glass to you.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Hammond.

Related Links

Doctor Works to Prevent Sports Injuries

Most people understand the relationship between clean water or clean air and their own health. But having a healthy environment doesn’t stop with natural ecosystems. It also includes our manmade environment – the places we work… and the places we play. One doctor says the places we play are putting us at risk. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Hammond has the story:

Transcript

Most people understand the relationship between clean water or clean air and their
own health.
But having a healthy environment doesn’t stop with natural ecosystems. It also
includes our
manmade environment. The places we work and the places we play. But one doctor
says the
places we play are putting us at risk. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David
Hammond has
the story:


(sound of Cheetah parents cheering)


It’s a chilly fall morning in Canton, Michigan and the 12 soccer
fields at Independence Park are humming with activity. On this
field, the Cheetahs are playing the Dolphins. And in this battle
of nine-year-old girls, the Cheetahs seem to have the edge.


Small groups of parents huddle under blankets, sipping coffee,
and shouting encouragement. The cheering is high-spirited, but
no one seems to take the action too seriously. The biggest
decision of the day will probably be where to go for lunch after
the game.


But with increasing frequency, the next stop for these kids is not
the pizza parlor, but the emergency room. According to the U.S.
Consumer Products Safety Commission, nearly 12 million
children seek treatment for sports injuries each year.


Michael Kedroske is one of those kids. He’s a six-grader from
Dexter, Michigan. A year ago, Kedrowski played soccer for a
premiere traveling team. That ended after a head injury. His
mother Beth, says it was a freak accident.


“They were all just kind of gathered around for a water break,
getting ready to start their scrimmage, and he just happened to be
walking on the field as the other person was just kicking the ball.
Just wrong place, wrong time kind of thing.”


Michael had a headache for a couple of days and sat out from the
team. After being pain-free for a week, he started playing again.
But in his first game back, he had a relapse. After using his head
to pass the ball to a teammate, he collapsed. For the next three
months, Michael suffered constant headaches. For the next six
months, he had to limit all physical activity.


It’s just not fun at all, your sitting out from everything, and you just want to
play a sport,
but you can’t, cause, you’re even gonna get hurt more, so, really, you’ve got to be
strict
on yourself about not doing anything that is going to effect your injury even more.”


Unfortunately, injuries like this are becoming more common.
And its not just soccer. Baseball, softball and basketball all send
hundreds of thousands of people to the emergency room each
year.


“One of the real fallacies about sports injuries is that they’re little bumps and
bruises and
that they don’t carry with them long term ramifications and there is nothing you can
do to
prevent them.”


That’s Dr. David Janda. He’s an orthopedic surgeon and founder of the Institute for
Preventative Sports Medicine. The Institute is a small, non-profit focused on
preventing
sports injuries.


“The hope is when folks get our studies they realize that many of these injuries are
very
severe. They carry with them life long costs from an economic standpoint, but
lifelong
disability as well.”


It’s a passion for Dr. Janda. He doesn’t take a salary and
volunteers his time. He says the Institute’s emphasis on injury
prevention makes it unique.


“Throughout my education, throughout high school, college, medical school, internship,
residency, fellowship, it all focused on one thing. Wait for someone to get hurt,
wait for
them to get cancer, then do something. What the Institute is all about is teaching
people on
how to be proactive, how to identify problems before they occur, act upon them, and
prevent the negative ramifications that occur when problems develop.”


Janda’s Institute has studied the effectiveness of things like
padded soccer goalposts, breakaway bases in softball and
eyeshields in hockey. Over its fourteen year history, the Institute
has published nearly 60 such studies in peer-reviewed journals.
Most have focused on children’s sports. The studies have given
Dr. Janda a respected voice within sports medicine. A voice that
Janda’s not shy about using. He’s a frequent guest on network
television and radio shows, and he even co-hosted an episode of
the Oprah Winfrey show.


“I do a disservice to the Institute, to my efforts at the Institute, to our
researchers’ efforts at the
Institute, if I publish a study that has significant positive ramifications for the
public welfare, and
I don’t let people know about it.”


Dr. Janda’s emphasis on injury prevention is not just attracting
attention from parents, but from the private sector as well. Bill
Young is CEO and President of Plasticpak Packaging Group.
It’s one of North America’s largest manufacturers of rigid-
plastic containers.


After learning about Janda’s work, Young thought the same
ideas could benefit his company. He saw parallels between
injury prevention in sports and injury prevention in the
workplace. He worked with Janda to identify safety hazards in
his factories. Since Plasticpak made injury prevention a priority,
Young says workers compensation claims have gone down
nearly 20%.


“Since we are self-insured. We are paying less out. Which helps tremendously and
more
important than that, anytime you lose valuable employees in the workplace. Due to any
downtime that they have to take. That in itself is a major interruption. And the
market
being as competitive as it is today. That’s been beneficial for us.”


For his part, Dr. Janda says he’s happy he’s saving companies
money, but his emphasis is on children. He wants parents and
coaches to understand the importance of injury prevention. He
also wants them to realize that small changes can make a big
difference. To help them, he’s developed a safety checklist of 20
questions. Dr. Janda says that parents can use this simple
checklist to ensure that their children have the safest possible
sports environment.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Hammond.

Related Links

B-T Corn Research Heads Into Field

In a recent issue of the journal, Nature, Cornell researchers released a
report claiming that pollen from a genetically engineered, or BT, corn
has a deadly effect on the monarch butterfly. But industry
representatives criticized the results, saying the lab-work didn’t
duplicate a real-life scenario. So now, Cornell scientists are heading
into the field for more research. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
David Hammond has more:

NOAA Closing Gauging Stations

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has decided to
remove a total of 13 gauging stations from around the Great Lakes
region. The stations take continual readings of lake levels. NOAA says
the removal is part of an effort to cut costs and remove obsolete
stations, but some policy-makers say the timing couldn’t be worse. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Hammond reports: