I recently participated in a series of conversations about the use of hormones in beef cattle.  Little did I realize that an idea conceived while walking pens one morning would become a hit among my peers.

My display consists of pint-sized canning jars and M&M’s.  I used facts from a beef myths website  to calculate the amount of M&M’s it would take to equal levels of nanograms of estrogen in foods.  A nanogram is one billionth of a gram used to measure hormones in the blood.  I found that using one M&M per nanogram would require buying large amounts of M&M’s.  While I would enjoy eating those M&M’s I decided for travel purposes I would divide the levels by six to show levels of estrogen in food.

The jars compare levels of estrogen found in foods like cabbage, peas, potatoes and beef.  What seemed to really amaze people was the idea that women of childbearing age would comparably have around 22 gallons worth of M&M’s in their system naturally, making the little chip from the beef sample look insignificant in regards to making healthy food choices for yourselves and your family.

Recently I was in a HyVee in Omaha.  I had several kids interested in eating my M&M’s but what really amazed me was how quickly they caught on to the fact that we have hormones present in many of the foods we eat as well as even larger amounts in our bodies.  The parents would confirm that they were concerned about hormone levels in beef.  After allowing me to explain how we use hormone implants in cattle as well as the M&M visual, they agreed that this was not an issue to prevent them from buying beef.

As a volunteer for CommonGround and an advocate for agriculture, I have found that listening is the most important skill I can use when reaching out to consumers. If it is a concern for the consumer then it is a concern for me to clarify what the consumer wants and needs to know.  Sometimes it means sharing facts in a manner that consumers can relate to and then encouraging them to seek further information from reliable sources.

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