Speak Up is a series of blogs where CommonGround volunteers from all over the U.S. speak up to answer questions from consumers.
The results of the recent CommonGround Gate-to-Plate survey inspired me to write a blog about hormones in food, specifically, beef. As a CommonGround volunteer and cattle farmer, I want to help explain food issue topics that consumers are misinformed or confused about.
The survey showed that more than half of moms surveyed believe it is important to feed their families hormone-free poultry and pork, even though it may cost more to do so.
Well, first of all, federal regulations only allow the use of hormones on cattle and sheep. If you see chicken, turkey or pork in the store labeled “hormone-free,” the label is simply a marketing ploy. Growth hormones are not allowed in the raising of poultry and pigs.
As far as beef goes, some farmers and ranchers choose to use growth hormones on their cattle to help them convert their feed into lean muscle more efficiently. Americans are demanding leaner cuts of beef and this is one safe way to produce it.
Farmers have been using growth hormones for nearly 60 years, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require these hormones to undergo scientific testing to make sure they’re safe for the animal and humans.
The Missouri Beef Industry Council website states, “extensive research shows that growth promotants are metabolized before the animal enters the food supply. Scientific studies show, and the government’s animal drug approval and monitoring process ensures there is no difference in the safety of beef from animals that have been treated with growth hormones and those that have not.”
A growth promotant is typically a small pellet that is placed under the skin on the back of an animal’s ear. It slowly releases tiny amounts of hormone and safely dissolves after the treatment is completed. All animals go through a withdrawal period to ensure the growth hormone has worked its way out of the animal’s system before that meat can enter the food system.
According to the Beef Checkoff website, “one serving of beef from a steer implanted with a growth promotant has nearly 20 times less estrogen than what the FDA permits and thousands of times less than what our bodies naturally produce, not to mention a fraction of what is present in many other foods such as cabbage and grains.”
You can see in the chart below the amounts of estrogen present in beef (implanted and non-implanted), milk, some vegetables and also in children and adults. As you can see, the amounts of hormones in beef is very, very minuscule.
So, please rest assured that the meat you buy in the grocery store is safe for you and your children to consume. If you have any questions on topics like hormones in food or any others, please leave a comment below. Thanks!