Compared to people in developing nations, Americans have the privilege and luxury to hold their food against high standards; they are concerned about the safety, quality and price of their food.
Consumers of meat take care in purchasing and often question whether the products they eat are safe and healthy. Hormones in meat are a major cause of concern in today’s food consumers.
It might just surprise you how safe hormone use in animal agriculture really is.
Through classes, discussions with professors and guided research, I have discovered the reasons for the beneficial use of hormones, which food animal agriculturists utilize.
Several techniques and technologies have been introduced in food-animal production to help provide our current population with enough viable protein — protein that is abundant, high-quality, safe and affordable. Beef production technologies have allowed U.S. cattle producers to meet the protein needs of our country and, through exports, the protein needs of people in many other countries.
Why does agriculture even bother with animal protein as a source for food? There is a significant amount of land that is unsuitable for crop production. Yet this land offers a remarkable resource: forage. While humans cannot use forage, beef cattle can. And most market beef cattle spend most of their lives grazing this forage.
Cattle have a digestive system featuring a four-compartment stomach with a high complex microbial population, they are able to convert forage into muscle that can be used as a high-quality protein for humans.
All food that is produced and sold commercially is required to meet federal regulations. It is the job of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the safety standards of meat. Animal products are carefully tracked and inspected for consumer safety. The USDA does allow a regulated use of hormones to increase meat production.
The cattle industry uses hormones in their beef to increase the production of muscle and make the animal a better protein producer. More muscle allows the producer to meet the population’s protein demands.
In cattle, muscle growth is influenced by the amount of growth hormone, which is regulated by steroid hormones, such as estrogen and androgen.
In order to give an effective dose of anabolic hormones, estrogen and androgen, anabolic implants are inserted into the cattle’s ear. Many beef cattle are injected with this tiny device, which slowly emits the steroid hormones into the body. These supplemental hormone devices function just as if it was naturally occurring in cattle and other mammals.
The amount of hormone in treated beef is not too much different than the hormone levels found in all natural beef. In a journal that discusses “The Ethical Food Movement” hormone levels of estrogen in different foods are spelled out.
A female naturally contains 480,000 nanograms of estrogen on a daily basis. A 3 oz. serving of beef treated with a hormone supplement contains only 1.9 nanograms of estrogen. Whereas a 3 oz. serving of non-treated beef naturally contains 1.2 nanograms of estrogen. A 3 oz. serving of potatoes contain 225 nanograms of estrogen and 3 oz. serving of soybeans contain 168,000,000 nanograms of estrogen.
Consumers have many choices in what meat they chose to buy at the grocery store. When you are making those choices, it’s helpful to understand that an entire body of science proves that beef raised with supplemental hormones is safe for human consumption.
Malinda DeBell is a sophomore animal science major. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.