Health Benefit of Grass Fed Beef
In 2011, 34 million cattle were slaughtered to provide beef for US consumers.1 Scientists believe about two-thirds of American cattle raised in for slaughter today are injected with hormones to make them grow faster.2 These measures mean higher profits for the beef and dairy industries, but what does it mean for consumers? Although the USDA and FDA claim these hormones are safe, there is growing concern that hormone residues in meat and milk might be harmful to human health and the environment.
What’s in the Beef?
According to the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health, the use of six natural and artificial growth hormones in beef production poses a potential risk to human health.3 These six hormones include three which are naturally occurring—Oestradiol, Progesterone and Testosterone—and three which are synthetic—Zeranol, Trenbolone, and Melengestrol.
The Committee also questioned whether hormone residues in the meat of “growth enhanced” animals can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer.4
Children, pregnant women and the unborn are thought to be most susceptible to these negative health effects. Hormone residues in beef have been implicated in the early onset of puberty in girls, which could put them at greater risk of developing breast and other forms of cancer. The European Union’s Committee reported that as of 1999, no comprehensive studies had been conducted to determine whether hormone residues in meat can be cancer-causing.5
Scientists are also concerned about the environmental impacts of hormone residues in cow manure. Growth promoting hormones not only remain in the meat we consume, but they also pass through the cattle and are excreted in their manure. When manure from factory farms enters the surrounding environment, these hormones can contaminate surface and groundwater. Aquatic ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to hormone residues. Recent studies have demonstrated that exposure to hormones has a substantial effect on the gender and reproductive capacity of fish, throwing off the natural cycle.6
Despite international scientific concern, the United States and Canada7 continue to allow growth promoting hormones in cattle.8 The European Union, however, does not allow the use of hormones in cattle production, has prohibited the import of hormone-treated beef since 1988, and has banned all beef imports from the US. The ban has been challenged by the US at the World Trade Organization and debate still rages between the US and the EU over its validity.9
There are many small family farmers who don’t use artificial hormones on their animals. By purchasing your milk and meat from local, sustainable farms, you are supporting a system that ensures the health and welfare of the farm animals, and protects you and your family from hormone-related health risks.
Did you know?
- According to Science News, 80 percent of all U.S. feedlot cattle are injected with hormones.10
- A study of cows treated with melengestrol acetate (one of the artificial growth hormones approved for use in the U.S.) revealed that residues of this hormone were traceable in soil up to 195 days after being administered to the animals.11
- Scientists have linked the rise in twin births over the last 30 years to bovine growth hormone in the food supply.
1. USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, “Livestock Slaughter 2012 Summary,” November 21, 2012.
2. Raloff, Janet. “Hormones: Here’s the Beef: environmental concerns reemerge over steroids given to livestock.” Science News 161, no. 1, January 5, 2002, 10.
3. The Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health. “Assessment of Potential Risks to Human Health from Hormone Residues in Bovine Meat and Meat Products.” European Commission, April 30, 1999.
6. Raloff, Janet. “Hormones: Here’s the Beef: environmental concerns reemerge over steroids given to livestock.” Science News 161, no. 1, January 5, 2002, 10.
7. Canadian Animal Health Institute. “Hormones: A Safe, Effective Production Tool for the Canadian Beef Industry.” Fact sheet.
8. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine. “The Use of Steroid Hormones for Growth Promotion in Food-Producing Animals.” Food and Drug Administration, July, 2002.
9. World Trade Organization. “United States — Continued Suspension of Obligations in the EC — Hormones Dispute.” Dispute DS320 Settlement Summary, updated June 2, 2006.
10. Raloff, Janet. “Hormones: Here’s the Beef: environmental concerns reemerge over steroids given to livestock.” Science News 161, no. 1, January 5, 2002, 10.
xi. Schiffer, Bettina, Andreas Daxenberger, Karsten Meyer, and Heinrich H.D. Meyer. “ The Fate of Trenbolone Acetate and Melengestrol Acetate after Application as Growth Promoters in Cattle: Environmental Studies.” Environmental Health Perspectives. 109, no. 11, November 2001, 1145.
Learn More About the Health and Environmental Benefits of Grass Fed Beef
Check out other health and environmental benefits of grass fed beef. Weatherbury’s grass fed beef is not only healthy, it is tasty too!
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