Growth Hormone Use in Cattle Production

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I’m no expert, but my guess is, when questions arise about beef safety, especially when asking moms, growth hormones are probably one of the biggest concerns out there. That was my biggest question before going ‘On the Ranch’. How does the use of growth hormones in cattle (or any agriculture animal we consume products from) affect our families? Do our children really “grow up” faster because of them? Do they cause strange anomalies in their growth?

To explain what growth hormones actually do when the cattle producers use it, it’s actually quite simple. Growth hormones are used to safely produce more of the lean beef that consumers demand while using fewer resources, like land and feed. Yes, safely. This isn’t a relatively new thing either, these production technologies have been used for nearly 60 years to help cattle efficiently convert their feed into more lean muscle.

Why is that important to you? Well because consumers love lean beef. 69% of consumers say that when buying certain types of food, buying lean cuts of meat is most important to them.

Growth hormones are typically administered through a small pellet (called an implant) that is placed under the skin on the back of an animal’s ear. You can see here a video of a a growth hormone being administered.

The hormones in growth promoting implants include estrogens, androgens and progestins. Most growth hormones are used to supplement existing hormones or to compensate for absent ones. For example, steers (castrated bulls) that are implanted, gain weight at about the same rate as a bull.

What’s very interesting about it, is the levels the cattle are given aren’t significant to you and I in any way. What do I mean by that? The hormones are metabolized or used by the animal’s body before it goes to public consumption. And let’s say in the case of an estrogen hormone, the amount of hormone that is injected is less than what our natural bodies make, so even if there was any residue it would be a miniscule amount in the beef we’re eating.

I know that some people don’t trust the FDA is doing their job, but the safety of growth hormones actually go through a number of different departments for approval, and more than 500 different studies have been conducted on them and submitted as part of a regulated process. They are also re-evaluated annually, and only are kept in the marketplace if they are continually proven safe.

They aren’t just recognized as safe by the FDA and agencies here in the U.S they are also approved to be safe for beef production by many government agencies and groups worldwide, including the World Health Organization. That’s an important thing to note, because the use of growth hormones has helped provide a growing global population with leaner beef while using fewer resources.

I know not everyone is going to be okay with this. I’m just sharing with you what I saw first hand and what I learned. I had no idea that growth hormones were used to produce leaner beef, to be perfectly honest, I had no idea what they were actually for at all.  I personally like eating my lean beef. It makes me very comfortable feeding American beef to my family after having actually seen a feedyard, how the cattle is cared for, how they’re fed, and meeting the families that feed this same meat to their own children.

To learn more about Growth Promotant Use in Cattle visit*

Oh and I know you all want to know about how the feedyards manage manure…am I right? That will be coming up….

*Some facts in this post are based off a sheet provided by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association – because as much as I’d like to think that I can remember everything I heard in the two days I visited…the truth is…I can’t!

I was taken on a tour sponsored by the Beef Checkoff with a group of influencers and experts to get a first hand look at where consumer’s beef comes from. All expenses were paid, however all opinions in the posts are my own and were not swayed by that.

3 thoughts on “Growth Hormone Use in Cattle Production

  1. Thanks for this very informative post. I've never done enough research on growth hormones to choose one side or another, but I do know that I like beef and that's not going to change anytime soon. Looks like a pretty interesting trip!

  2. Thanks for this information. I didn't know all this about the way ranchers use growth hormones. It certainly sounds harmless, but I know that I'm still a bit nervous about it. However, my husband requires lean meat due to a liver disease, so I'll take the lean beef and keep reading all the info I can about the growth hormone.
    Thanks for keeping us informed.

  3. I always thought growth hormones were for making bigger cattle so they coud get more meat out of each cow. Good job.

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