All About Beta-Agonists

What are Beta-Agonists?

Beta-agonists (beta agonists), such as ractopamine and zilpaterol, are animal feed ingredients that help animals make the most of the food they eat. Farmers and ranchers work with their nutritionists and veterinarians to provide the ingredient for the right animals at the right time, when they typically gain excess fat. Beta-agonists help animals maintain their natural muscle-building ability, resulting in the leaner meat while maintaining flavor and juiciness.

How are Beta-Agonists Used?

Beta-agonists (beta agonists) are a feed ingredient used in a targeted way, added in small amounts to animals’ feed at a specific time in their lives. Beta-agonists are eliminated quickly so they are not stored in the animals’ body for any length of time.

Are Beta-Agonists Making Meat Unsafe for Consumption?

All products used in food-animal production go through dozens of studies and must show they are safe for both the animal and humans before receiving approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the case of beta-agonists (beta agonists), hundreds of studies have been done by universities, pharmaceutical companies and reviewed by the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Ractopamine, one beta-agonist used in cattle and pigs was approved by the FDA ten years ago (2003).

Zilpaterol, another beta-agonist used in cattle, was approved by the FDA in 2006 and has been used globally for over 17 years. The human food safety of meat from animals fed ractopamine has been affirmed by 28 regulatory bodies, including the international food standards body Codex Alimentarius Commission, which was created by the World Health Organization.

How Does the Quality of Meat Differ Between Animals that are Fed Beta-Agonists and Animals That Aren’t?

Farmers and ranchers always strive to maintain or improve quality because, if they don’t, consumers will not buy their product. The use of beta-agonists (beta agonists), helps animals make the most of what they eat, creating a leaner mean that is also flavorful and juicy.

How Many More Pounds do Beta-agonists Add to Animals?

It is estimated, for example, that by giving cattle these feed ingredients at targeted points in their lives, cattle grow up to 30 more pounds of lean meat versus fat, which, considering the average weight of cattle at slaughter is 1,200 pounds, that’s only an increase of about 2.2 percent of total body weight.

In pork, ractopamine provides additional leaner pork per pig, adding approximately 6.6 pounds.

The decision to use beta-agonists (beta agonists), which are added in very small amounts to an animal’s feed at specific times in its life, takes into account many factors, including the latest in nutrition science combined with decades of experience caring for animals and consultations with animal nutritionists and veterinarians.