What about hormones and food?

What about hormones and food-The very word ‘hormones’ conjures up a lot of concern for many people. Hormones occur naturally in people, plants and animals. Here are some important facts and examples for you to consider.

1. Are there hormones in poultry?

One of the biggest myths we hear in agriculture is that of the use of hormones in poultry. No chickens, turkeys or egg-laying hens are ever fed hormones. Today’s farm animals grow faster because we’ve learned how to feed them exactly what they need and through choosing animals for their good genetics over many generations.

2. Are there growth hormones used in milk production?

Not in Canada. In the U.S., a product called rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) has been approved for use in dairy cows for the last 20 years to increase how much milk they produce. It’s a hormone which occurs naturally in the pituitary glands of all cattle that can be given to cows to boost their milk production. This product is not licensed for sale in Canada.

Did you know… that milk is identified and sampled from every farm before it’s put in the milk truck? This is to ensure each tank of milk meets strict government quality standards. In addition to farm samples, every milk truckload is tested at the processing plant. If there’s a problem with the milk, the entire load is rejected and the farmer deemed responsible can be fined.

3. Why are hormones sometimes used in beef cattle?

First, it is important to mention that there is no such thing as hormone-free beef. Hormones occur naturally in all animals, people and plants. There are, however, both natural and synthetic versions of natural hormones approved by Health Canada for safe use in beef, and some beef farmers will chose to use them. You may be wondering why they do that and what that means for you and the beef you eat. Here’s the scoop: 

ItemEstrogen (in nanograms)
Birth control pills (per pill) 20,000 – 50,000
Soybean oil (15 ml)28,773**
Cabbage, 100 g2,381
Beef from cattle not given hormonal growth promotants 100 g1.5
Beef from cattle given hormonal growth promotants 100 g2.2
**estrogen equivalent activity (i.e. in the form of phytoestrogens)

Information courtesy of Canada Beef www.beefinfo.org

  • Hormones help cattle convert the food they eat into muscle more quickly and easily. This means they will develop more lean meat. It also means that cattle can be raised using fewer resources – less feed and water with less manure produced.
  • Farmers that use hormones must follow strict withdrawal times before treated animals go to market.
  • Organic beef and beef from animals raised conventionally have similar hormones.
  • The level of hormones in beef from cattle who have received the growth supplements is virtually the same in beef from cattle not given the supplements. Hormone levels are measured in nanograms (one nanogram is one billionth of a gram or a very tiny amount). The estrogen in a serving of beef is very low, especially when we compare it to the amount of hormones we produce naturally in our own bodies.
  • The safety of hormone use has been confirmed, worldwide, by agencies including Health Canada, the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Did you know? Without the use of hormones in the production of beef, we would need 12% more cattle, 10% more land, 11% more feed and 4% more water to produce the same amount of beef. This in turn would require 7% more fuel and fertilizer. (Source: http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/qa-on-conventional-production-of-canadian-beef)

For more interesting farm and food tidbits, check out www.realdirtonfarming.ca

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