USFRA's Point of View

USFRA's View on Hormones

Hormones occur naturally in living animals and even in some produce. Many consumers have questions about supplemental hormone use in raising farm animals. Farmers and ranchers are committed to sharing information and answering questions about hormone use so consumers can make knowledgeable choices about their food.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is comprised of people in agriculture with a variety of perspectives and views. Likewise, we have farmers and ranchers who use a number of different management practices in the process of growing and raising food. The use of supplemental hormones, based on years of scientific study and veterinarian oversight, is one tool that some of our farmers and ranchers choose. Additionally, USFRA has industry partners who develop, manufacture and market hormones for farm animal use.

Hormones are often paired with the word antibiotics. These are two separate tools with different purposes. Scientifically speaking, here’s a breakdown of hormones and antibiotics.

Hormones:

Hormones are naturally occurring chemicals produced in an organ of the body that are carried in a bodily fluid to another organ or tissue where they have specific effects. Insulin, for example, is a hormone that lowers blood glucose. The hormone gastrin aids in digestion. There may be as many as 100 hormones in the human and animal body. Hormones are naturally occurring in any living organism.

Hormones also can be man-made, replicating naturally occurring hormones. Both naturally occurring and man-made hormones can be safely used to supplement the hormones in farm animals when raising them for food or milk. The use of hormones varies greatly depending on species. Any supplemental hormones used in farming and ranching must first be approved and then are monitored to ensure no residues above and beyond what’s natural and safe for consumers enters the food supply.

Antibiotics:

Antibiotics are substances that are produced by one microorganism and have the ability to kill or inhibit the growth or multiplication (reproduction) of other microorganisms.

Consumers should have the choice to purchase food products from animals raised with or without the use of supplemental hormones. And the agriculture industry must continually strive to make information available to consumers.

Hormones occur naturally in farm animals like dairy cows and even some produce. Hormones are present in our food even with animals that haven’t been given supplemental hormones – it’s a natural part of life. Residues in meat and dairy products from animals given supplemental hormones are extremely minimal – and have been studied extensively and proven to have no harmful effects on people. In beef cattle, for example, the naturally circulating levels of hormones in cattle may not be that different than those in supplemented cattle, depending on life stage. Additionally, any milk or meat tested, whether given supplemental hormones or not, will test positive because these hormones occur naturally in cows. 

http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm055436.htm

Supplemental hormones may be safely used for both the raising of beef cattle, and in cows for milk production. In beef cattle, supplemental hormones can help synchronize the cycles of cows so ranchers can plan for calves to be born together and at a certain time of year. They also can help control temperament and stimulate growth by improving how feed is converted into lean muscle. In dairy cows, supplemental hormones are given to dairy cows to maintain production.

Farmers and ranchers strive to create foods that are in the best interest of long-term human health, while protecting the environment and making sure animals are raised humanely. The use of supplemental growth hormones in beef cattle and dairy cows can be an important part of this equation.

USFRA's View on Beta-Agonists

USFRA believes that farmers and ranchers and our partners utilize tools that help make the most of natural resources while keeping animals healthy and safe to produce a quality, nutritious and wholesome product for consumers. One example of this is the use of an animal feed ingredient called beta-agonists (beta agonists). Beta-agonists help animals make the most of the food they eat by building lean muscle instead of fat. That’s why beta-agonists, with guidance from veterinarians and animal nutritionists, are used in a targeted way during a specific time in an animal’s life.

To date, there are hundreds of studies that reflect the safety of beta-agonists as a feed ingredient for use in animals raised for food. Research shows that beta-agonists are safe for the animals and for humans who consume their meat. That is why these products have been approved by both U.S. and international food safety authorities, such as Codex Alimentarius Commission, which provides worldwide standards. In addition to the United States, beta-agonists are approved for use in Canada, Australia and two dozen other countries across the developed world.  Additionally, these products are monitored on a continuous basis to ensure they are working safely. One animal health company recently committed to conducting additional animal welfare studies, as well as convening an animal health advisory board to answer questions and ensure safety and correct use of their product.

Beta-agonists are used in cattle and pigs, working with the animal’s natural body processes. Animals, like humans, go through muscle-building changes with age. When animals are young, they use their food to build muscle, but as they age they begin to put on more fat. Beta-agonists help animals maintain their natural muscle-building ability over time, resulting in a leaner meat while maintaining its flavor and juiciness. 

Beta-agonists are metabolized, or eliminated from the body quickly, so the feed ingredients are not stored in the body for any length of time. Regardless of the type of animal, farmers and ranchers who decide to use beta-agonists work with animal experts to determine how this tool best fits into their current feeding and animal care program. Similarly, they work with nutritionists and veterinarians to determine proper amounts needed that work best for the animal. Farmers and ranchers are always looking for ways to improve their management and care programs for their animals. They constantly research the best applications for existing tools, including the optimal uses for beta-agonists.

For more information on beta-agonist use in cattle and pigs visit:

Beef:      http://factsaboutbeef.com/2013/05/21/beta-agonists-and-cattle-how-targeted-use-results-in-leaner-beef/

Pork:      http://www.porkcares.org/ytdaw/index.html?gclid=CPjxu6GsqrcCFQHNOgodpyQAuQ

More:     http://www.sensibletable.com/
              https://www.zilmax.com

USFRA's View on Hormones Hormones occur naturally in living animals and even in some produce. Many consumers have questions about supplemental hormone use in raising farm animals. Farmers and ranchers are committed to sharing information and answering questions about hormone use so consumers can make knowledgeable choices about their food. The U.S...

Questions & Answers

How would eliminating hormones impact the meat industry?

Cattle ranchers use hormones to improve how animals’ bodies turn food into lean muscle. This means meat is leaner and animals grow more quickly. This is one factor that helps meat prices for the consumers. Additionally, there’s less of an environmental impact per pound of meat raised today because of tools such as growth hormones. Each pound of beef raised in 2007, compared to 1977, uses 19 percent less feed, 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water and 9 percent less fossil fuel energy.

http://www.explorebeef.org/

Further, the use of growth hormones produces animals with leaner muscle, meaning the final product is less fatty – a quality many consumers demand and appreciate.

http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm055436.htm

Similarly, dairy farmers may use hormones to extend milk production so fewer cows can make more milk, reducing costs and environmental impact. Modern dairy practices require considerably fewer resources than dairying in 1944 with 21 percent of animals, 23 percent of feedstuffs, 35 percent of the water and only 10 percent of the land required to produce the same one billion kilograms of milk. Hormones given to dairy cows are not the same as those given to cattle for beef. It doesn’t cause the animal to grow bigger.

What if consumers prefer to choose meat from animals that have not been given beta-agonists?

Consumers have the right to make choices on what type of meat they buy at the grocery store. If they want meat that has been raised without beta-agonists they can choose USDA certified organic, which means the animal was not raised with any growth-promoting products. Farmers and ranchers work to provide a number of options to meet every consumer’s needs.

While ractopamine is approved for use in turkey, according to the National Turkey Federation, no major turkey producer in the United States uses ractopamine. Additionally, ractopamine is not used in any turkey products for export. Ractopamine is not approved for use in chickens.

Don’t large farms use hormones to make our food cheaper?

Farms and ranches of all sizes and shapes – big and small – may choose to use supplemental growth hormones.

In general, cattle and dairy farmers and ranchers use supplemental growth hormones 1) to keep costs lower because the animals grow better with less food; 2) to protect the environment because less food and fewer animals means less environmental impact and; 3) to keep the meat leaner and less fatty, an important quality many consumers want.

If growth hormones are safe, why aren’t other species like pork and poultry using them?

Each type of animal has different needs.  Raising a cow is very different from raising a pig or a turkey.  They can’t be lumped together.

Only organic milk is produced without hormones, right?

No.  The majority of conventional milk in supermarkets is not from cows treated with supplemental hormones.

All milk has bST because it’s a naturally occurring hormone that allows cows to produce milk. Even organic milk contains bST. Many conventional milk products are free from the supplemental version of this hormone, with only 15 percent of the dairy farmers using the synthetic product. Consumers have many choices – and don’t have to pay more for them.

Are the levels of hormones in our food creating health problems like early puberty?

No. Our own bodies make hormones on a daily basis, and we’d be dead without them. We consume all kinds of hormones in the foods we eat, organic or otherwise; even strict vegetarians ingest hormone-laced plant foods. http://nmpf.org/latest-news/ceo-corner/sep-2006/a-distinction-without-a-difference. Hormones occur naturally in many foods ranging from animal products to plants.

The FDA and numerous scientific panels have studied the impact of using supplemental growth hormones in farm animals and found there is no effect on human health. http://www.fda.gov/

In addition, residue from growth hormones in our food is extremely minimal. One example cited by Dan Thompson, DVM, PhD, Beef Cattle Institute, said that an eight ounce steak from a steer that did not use growth hormones is two nanograms versus from a steer that did use growth hormones is three nanograms. That is equivalent to a blade of grass on a football field. http://www.bovinevetonline.com/news/industry/A-blade-of-grass-in-a-football-field-160519345.html

Only organic and natural products are hormone free, right?

Hormones in animals occur naturally, even when raised organically. All animal products contain some hormones.

Consumers looking for milk and beef raised without the benefit of supplemental hormones need only to look at their food labels. Conventional dairy products are readily available free from rbST or BGH, if consumers choose. And although most beef is considered natural, some companies have gone to the extra step of certifying and labeling natural to mean “no added hormones.” You don’t have to buy organic milk or beef to get a product raised without supplemental hormones.

Many marketers and “experts” often quote misleading information about hormone use in farm animals in the U.S. that creates confusion for consumers.  For example, poultry and pork are never given growth hormones yet “natural” and sometimes organic products are often marketed “not grown with hormones.”  This can be misleading because their conventional product counterparts also were not grown with supplemental hormones.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe5CTjtAW70&feature=plcp

Why do I hear so much about antibiotics being fed to animals to promote growth?

This is a common misconception. Antibiotics allow the animal to remain healthy. When an animal is healthy, it will eat normally and gain weight. Just like humans who are sick, the desire to eat and drink is low. This is true for animals as well. Antibiotics for animals are used judiciously and in cooperation with a veterinarian.

https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Antimicrobial-Use-and-Antimicrobial-Resistance-FAQs.aspx

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 its flavor and juiciness. 

Is it safe to give animals beta-agonists (beta agonists), as a feed ingredient?

 

Yes. When animal health products are approved, multiple variables are fully evaluated, including safety to the animal, safety to the environment and safety to the food supply. Hundreds of studies have affirmed the safety of these feed ingredients for humans, animals and the environment.  Because all members of the agriculture community are responsible for, and committed to, animal welfare, these products are monitored on continuous basis to ensure they are working effectively. One animal health company recently committed to conducting additional animal welfare studies, as well as convening an animal health advisory board to answer questions and ensure safety and correct use of their product.

Just like with human medicines or vitamin and mineral supplements, it is important to take the recommended amount at the right time. As with any technology, farmers and ranchers should always follow directions on the label. That’s why there are training programs in place to make sure label procedures are followed and only proper amounts are added to the animal’s feed at a specific time in their lives.

How are beta-agonists used?

Beta-agonists (beta agonists) are a feed ingredient that’s 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. 

Can you prove beta-agonists are not causing the meat to become 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 are not?

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.

 

Which farm animals generally do and don’t receive growth hormones?

Beef: Supplemental hormones are used in about 95 percent of cattle production in the U.S. to synchronize cow reproductive cycles, control temperament and promote growth.

http://www.explorebeef.org/CMDocs/ExploreBeef/FactSheet_GrowthPromotantApproval.pdf

Dairy: Hormones are used in about 15 percent of cows in the U.S. to increase milk production.

http://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/

Pork: No hormones are used to promote the growth of pigs in the U.S. Rather, hormones can be given to assist sows during birth. Like humans, they receive Oxytocin to aid the sow during labor.    

http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/a954b1fd#/a954b1fd/38

Poultry: No hormones are used to promote the growth of poultry in the U.S.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe5CTjtAW70&feature=plcp

How many more pounds of meat do beta-agonists, a feed ingredient, add to animals? Is it unhealthy for the animals to carry so much extra weight?

 

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 1200 pounds, that’s only an increase of about 2.2 percent of total body weight.

In pork, ractopamine provides additional lean 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.

What if consumers prefer to choose meat from animals that have not been given beta agonists?

 

Consumers have the right to make choices on what type of meat they buy at the grocery store. If they want meat that has been raised without beta-agonists (beta agonists), they can choose USDA certified organic, which means the animal was not raised with any growth-promoting products. Farmers and ranchers work to provide a number of options to meet every consumer’s needs.

While ractopamine is approved for use in turkey, according to the National Turkey Federation, no major turkey producer in the United States uses ractopamine. Additionally, ractopamine is not used in any turkey products for export. There are no beta-agonists approved for use in chickens.