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 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 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.
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: