Hormone factsheet 27 jan 2012.pub
Hormonal Growth Promotants and Beef
What are hormonal growth promotants?
Hormonal growth promotants are the natural sex hormones which are administered to animals in
order to improve an animal’s ability to use nutrients efficiently. Synthetic derivatives of the natural hormones may also be used instead of the natural hormones. Health Canada has approved three natural hormones and three synthetically produced hormones for use in cattle in Canada.
Why are they used in the cattle industry?
Hormonal growth promotants are used so that the animal uses its feed efficiently. The use of
Development of more lean meat with less fat deposited in the meat More growth using less feed Reduced cost for the cattle producer and less expensive beef for the consumer
Does their use affect the safety of beef?
The safety of hormonal growth promotant use has been reviewed by many experts and agencies,
including Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. All have concluded that hormones can be used safely in beef production.
Research has shown that very high levels of hormones taken for a long time (such as those levels
found in oral contraceptive pills or hormone replacement pills) may be a risk factor in some kinds of cancer. However, the levels found in food products, such as beef, are too low to be of risk to human health.
How do we know that the hormones are safe?
Health Canada, through the Food and Drug Act and Regulations, determines what hormonal
substances can be used in animals and how these substances are to be used. In order for the hormone to be approved for use it must:
Be effective for its purpose (do what it is suppose to do); Be safe for the animals; Result in food products that are safe for humans to eat.
How does the Canadian government monitor the use of
hormones in beef production?
In addition to the strict requirements which must be met in order to obtain approval to sell, and to use, growth promoting hormones in Canada, Canada’s national food safety agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), conducts regular monitoring programs in which thousands of samples of all meat products are analyzed to ensure that any drug residues which remain in meat are well within lawful, and safe, limits. Results of these monitoring programs are published regularly by the CFIA. Since residue levels of the natural hormones in beef are in the same range in both treated and untreated animals, Canadian regulatory authorities have concluded that it is not necessary to establish so-called safe limits of the natural hormones. CFIA monitors for residues of the synthetic hormones and Canadian regulations do not permit residues of any of the synthetic hormones to be present in meat. And year after year, Canadian beef has been in virtually 100% compliance, that is, there are no residues in the beef.
Hormonal Growth Promotants and Beef
Are all cattle given hormonal growth promotants?
Each beef producer makes a business decision on using hormonal substances, which is based on many factors, including the cost/benefit of purchasing and administering the hormonal growth promotant. There is no such thing as hormone-free beef. Even beef raised organically will contain hormones because all animals produce hormones naturally. The hormone levels found in a sample of organic beef are similar to beef from animals given hormonal substances.
How much hormones are in beef?
Cattle, like humans, are mammals. All mammals have naturally occurring hormones. The level of
hormones in beef from cattle given hormonal substances is no different that the level found in beef from cattle not given hormonal substances. Studies also show that there is more variation in hormone levels of animals of different sexes than between treated and untreated animals.
As well, the level in a serving of beef is very low compared to other sources of hormones in our
Table 2—Hormones we may consume in food
Oral Contraceptive (per pill) 20,000-50,000
**estrogen equivalent activity (i.e. in the form of phytoestrogens)
Prepared by Canada Beef 2012
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