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A Visual To Add To Your Arsenal About Hormones & Beef

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Today’s blog addresses the common misconception that beef is full of hormones, causing early onset puberty in young girls. 

 

There are countless myths swirling around about beef and its status as a health food. From a fear of fat, to the ongoing debate about differences of organic, natural and conventionally raised beef, to hormones, to antibiotics, to foodborne illnesses, it’s no wonder moms are puzzled as they shop for beef at the grocery store!

As an expectant mother, I have a keen interest in fueling my body with the best foods for myself and my baby. When I read articles warning mothers about how beef will cause early onset puberty in young girls, I can see why moms with daughters might worry about serving animal protein on the dinner table.

However, this myth is not only inaccurate, but it’s dangerous to cut animal proteins from the diets of adolescent girls.

 

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Holly Swee, South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) nutritionist, recently explained how most adolescent girls are deficient in protein in their diet.

Swee writes, “Like most Americans, we struggle from time to time getting our diet right, but many were surprised to learn that a 10-year study published in the journal Nutrients found that adolescent girls did not consume the recommended amounts of fruit, vegetables and dairy, and that three out of four consumed less than the recommended amounts in the protein-foods group.

“Even more surprising is that more than 90% of adolescent girls surveyed consumed about five times the recommended maximum intake of solid fats and added sugars. Unfortunately, many adolescent girls shy away from protein because of a fear of weight gain. Recent research points to the importance that high-quality protein plays in overall health, including weight control, by increasing satiety and helping build and maintain muscle mass,” Swee explains.

I recently read a blog post from “Farm Meets Fork” penned by Kassi Williams entitled, “Where’s The Beef? M&Ms and Hormones.” Williams addresses this consumer fear regarding hormones, and says trying to explain it to consumers in terms of nanograms only creates more confusion. She credits rancher Joan Ruskamp, from Dodge, NE, for putting together a really cool visual to show the difference in estrogen levels in different foods.

Williams explains the visual, “As you can see in the photo, Ruskamp carefully measured each pint jar of M&M’s so they represent the amount of nanograms found in different kinds of food and in the human body naturally in comparison to the amount found in beef. In the pint jar furthest to the right, is a sixth of an M&M. This sliver of an M&M represents the amount of hormones found in a 3-oz. serving of beef from cattle that received an implant. In the two middle pint jars are the amount of hormones found in a 3-oz. serving of potatoes with about 20 M&Ms, and a jar showing the hormones in peas containing a few more M&Ms. The pint jar on the left end, which is full of M&Ms, showcases the amount found in a 3-oz serving of cabbage.”

Williams goes on to answer common questions about hormones and beef, and explains why hormones are used in livestock production. You can read the entire blog here, and be sure to keep it handy for future reference should anyone ask about this topic.

It’s very evident that beef isn’t to blame for early onset puberty in young girls. Moreover, we aren’t over-consuming beef these days. In fact, consumption of red meat in the U.S. is at an all-time low, resulting in anemia and iron deficiencies in many children, women and the elderly. As we make our own dietary choices, let’s not let fear drive our purchasing decisions. Instead, let’s use common sense. Real, wholesome food isn’t the enemy, and knowing that a big, juicy steak is good for me and my future children, and it tastes good, too, makes the deal even sweeter.

Have you heard consumers express this concern to you? What do you think of this information? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 33

Ray Moses (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

The RDA for diet is around 10% protein that was established in 1943 and has been reviewed many times by scientists. It is pretty easy to get that amount of protein even if you hardly eat any meat. I found it interesting that my beef cows and humans need about the same amount of percent protein in their diets. Young girls are getting early onset puberty because super high amounts of energy in American diets.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

Yeah right - since when has the RDA ever been an accurate measure! I think you will find the agencies which come up with these figures are sponsored by the processed food industry.

on Feb 12, 2014

The beef industry is still missing the point. I am not arguing that the science isn't accurate, but the fact is that consumers do not want hormones in their beef at any level. We sell beef direct to the consumer and the first question they ask is whether it is hormone free. The fact is that we, as an industry, can raise beef without the use of hormones (and antibiotics). Maybe we lose a bit of efficiency, but that is better than losing customers. Markets educate producers with dollars not the other way around.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 20, 2014

'Markets educate producers with dollars, not the other way around.'. That makes sense until you consider the salesmanship on the part of Angus breeders it took to convince consumers that Angus beef is the gold standard of good beef on the plate. The fact that the public bought it suggests that they will buy just about any well packaged idea

JComRVA (not verified)
on Jun 25, 2014

Keith82, I think what you're trying to say is "without the use of added hormones". Food naturally has hormone levels, beef included, even without the use of added hormones. So, to say consumers want beef with absolutely no hormones, is just impossible.

mike1982 (not verified)
on Dec 17, 2014

I would love to see someone run a cow/calf operation of a decent size in the area I live in BC without the use of antibiotics. Tons of snow in the winter and when it melts everything turns into a muddy/mucky mess. No matter how much bedding you put out, calves are bound to get into it. So when you get a disease outbreak, you should just cross your fingers and hope for the best? No, it is your duty as the provider of these animals to give them the best care possible. Antibiotics/vaccines cure and prevent illnesses. It is unethical to just sit around and watch your animals die for no good reason. So many people with a couple of cows and calves trying to tell people with big operations that it can be done without antibiotics. It would be a pretty sad sight to see somebody get a scours outbreak and not treat any of their animals

Rob Cook (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

This is great!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

The key public concerns that's not addressed are 1) the hormones used in beef production are ADDED, thus additional to the animals normal requirements, and those described in the vegetables above are not ADDED. 2) science shows use that even very small amounts of hormones can alter chemical balances in a mammal, potentially changing the genetic makeup of that mammal (yes this does happen), presenting a potential threat to the next mammal on the food chain. Finally, what the cattle industry fails to see is that there is a clear disinterest in conventional beef production practices from the consumer. I fear the investment from special interest groups to change beef production will always out way that of the beef sector. Printing these types of articles gives false hope. You can't push a rope.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

All multi-cellular organisms contain hormones. ALL OF THEM. Even if you removed the implanted hormones (which are slow release and safe - the stop using them 200 days before cattle go to the meat market) in the beef industry - there would still be hormones in beef... Also, removing the implants would actually cause more environmental concern. It would take MORE of everything to keep produce the same amount of meat we currently do. 12% more cattle, 11% more feed, and 10% more land to produce, 10% more greenhouse gases.

LauraO (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2014

Birth control pills are also artificial estrogen, and are taken everyday by many women. Why aren't those companies being taken to the cleaners?
Beef that was never given any hormones at all has about 1.39 nanograms of estrogen per serving, compared to 1.89 in conventionally produced beef. Now lets compare that to ONE birth control pill at 34,000 nanograms of the "artificial" estrogen.

An average garden salad has 12,000 nanograms of estrogen, is 0.20 nanograms significant by comparison? No.

Beeflinks (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

I'd add a jar for beef from a non-implanted steer, which has 88% of the estrogen as beef from an implanted steer; there is no measurable differences in beef from implanted or non-implanted heifers.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

The fact that a very very tiny amount of hormone from an implant can impact the growth rate of a 1000 lb. steer can help one draw several conclusions:

If its the same hormones in vegetables that is in implants (and we both know its not) why doesn't the beef industry feed their feed lot steers cabbages. Given the huge amount of hormone in cabbages, as evidenced by the jar of m&m's, each steer could eat maybe a leaf or two each day.

Or, if the amount needed to influence the growth of 1000 lb. steer is so minute why not just eliminate it entirely.

What I m trying to say is the m&m argument doesn't fly with anyone capable of critical thought. If the beef industry wants to keep their customer base, give them what they want instead of trying to sell them silly defenses for industry practises.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

The estrogen implant that provides the minute amount of hormone that helps with growth is in a very slow release implant the is placed in the ear (the ear is not included in any products for human consumption. Cabbage is quite expensive as an animal feed and is not readily available in most cattle producing areas. We can eliminate the impant and simply charge more for the beef and that is a choice you have. However, if you continue to remove practices that reduce tha amount of time and feed necessary to produce food, you eventually reach a point at which it takes more land and resources to produce food ( aal food, not just beef) than we have and someone will not be able to afford to eat. Norman Borlaug, several years ago, said that if we deny the technology for modern agriculture, someone will ahve to decide which 50,000,000 people are going to starve to death. We can afford to buy this higher priced foood in the U.S. Not sure the rest of the world wants to starve.

Ray Moses (not verified)
on Feb 13, 2014

Uhmm, the hormone does not stay in the ear and make the ear larger.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 14, 2014

The rate of obesity in this country is off the charts. If everyone ate a 3 ounce serving of meat, there would still be enough food to go around.

on Feb 17, 2014

It's not the beef making them fat. It's the carbs. Spend some time in the kitchen with your grandmother and learn a thing or two.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 20, 2014

I was making a joke about feeding cattle cabbage leaves...I was trying to get someone to shoot a hole in the logic behind the m&m's, e.g. thst it doesnt matter shat kind of hormones are in cabbages because they are plant hormones and don't have the same effect. That stupid, and I can't say it loud enough, STUPID example used in the article would only be relevant if all comparisons were to the hormone estrogen found in foods. The person that came up with that barely made it through high school biology to think they were making a valid comparison of hormones in human food sources.

steven (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

For the record, the reason we implant the hormones in the ear, and don't feed cattle cabbage or any form of hormone, is that in the digestive system, it is broken down and just becomes more protein. It is not absorbed as an intact hormone. The same thing happens in the human body. Hence, there is no reason for concern. There are a million things in this world that may kill me some day, but I'm confident that consuming implanted beef isn't one of them.

averageman (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

You just rained on my question. We like forage collards and I was wondering if the hormones in the collards would be adequate to replace the implants for performance.

W.E. (not verified)
on Feb 13, 2014

We also use turnips and kale as a green winter forage to supplement dry hay. Great stuff, the cattle love them and the greens do grow well here in the upper South--though not so well this year with so many zero degree days! Haven't tried collards yet, but we might in the future. Our beef customers do not object to forages with natural estrogen. A caution, though. Grassfed dairy cows that graze too high a percentage of turnips or kale may give milk that tastes like the brassicas.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

...or maybe those that don't want implants don't care about the price of beef.....or maybe they are fringe and complain about everything....let them eat and enjoy tofu or soy milk (they don't make jars big enough)!

Dennis Hoyle (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

Why don't we raise beef without hormones or beta agonists or all other additives and GMO? Then there won't be anything to talk about. I don't want to eat beef with that in it and I don't expect anyone else to.

on Feb 12, 2014

The last sentence of your statement concerns me: " I don't want to eat beef with that in it and I don't expect anyone else to." Many people who know the science and facts are not concerned with the minute elevation in estrogen in implanted beef. Let them make up their own minds. As long as there is a market for it, both types of beef will be available. If the buying public ever refuses to buy beef from implanted animals, the practice will stop. Until then, the economics of production combined with the acceptance of the product will encourage their use.

Dennis Hoyle (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

Hi Tom, I eat the beef I raise as much as possible. I sell the same beef I produce for myself. My customers seem to appreciate it. There is no science involved just beef produced by eating grass and hay.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

Instead of continuing to use growth hormones and convince consumers that there's nothing wrong with them, couldn't we just listen to our customers and simply stop using the hormones? The only loser will be the hormone makers and dealers, and they can move on to making and selling something else. As for the loss of muscle and growth in the cattle, that can easily be remedied by using crossbreeding to leaner continental cattle more effectively.

I just continuous marvel at how much of the drug manufacturers water farmers and ranchers are willing to carry.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

As I consistently hear this same argument about hormones in the beef and dairy (and all other meat animals) that we are producing to feed our nation, it amazes me that these same people who attack animal agriculture and scrutinize the food they eat, don't think twice about putting their young daughters on birth control or about the effects of getting pregnant while on birth control. Birth control is elevated levels of hormones you are putting directly into your body. Maybe we should ask why there are warnings against getting pregnant while on birth control and what this does to young girls that are still developing. Attack hormones if you wish, but look at the entire picture.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

I think you should be looking at the BPA in plastics if you want to explain early puberty. It contains a molecule which is an oestrogen imitator, and becomes more dangerous when the plastic is heated with acidic food. You can get meat which is chemical free by buying organic grass-fed meat direct from the farm. It is stupid to reject all meat without looking at all the facts. Chances are this kind of misinformation is being spread by the processed food industry in an attempt to stear you away from natural healthy food, and lure you in to eating their crap.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 12, 2014

Why hasnt anyone mentioned the reason we implant? Because we castrate bull calves and turn them into steers, an implant is simply adding the same hormones they would have had as a bull. Without all the problems that would come from having bulls in a feedlot fighting and trying to jump fence to breed heifers!!!!

W.E. (not verified)
on Feb 13, 2014

People can always adapt our customary ways. We stopped using implants during the 1990s because in our experience we observed that the beef was tougher from implanted cattle of our particular breed. When we observed, it was then up to us to respond and adapt. We began leaving our bulls intact until they are yearlings. We solved the fence-jumping dilemma with high tensile electric fence and buffer zones between bulls and females. We then weigh and measure the yearlings, band and grow the steers out on high quality forage. They get enough natural muscling from natural hormones, grow fast enough, and give our beef customers what they want without implants, if their genetics are right to begin with. The bulls with the best scrotal circumference and phenotype remain bulls for breeding, which also creates more demand for the bulls. We solved the feedlot fighting dilemma by taking the cattle out of the feedlot, grass-finishing and direct marketing. Immediately, we started getting requests for custom grassfed beef that had never received implants, hormones or antibiotics. We decided to produce what those customers wanted. Costs went down, profits went up, and beef consumers got affordable beef from a reputable local known source. By observing, responding and adapting, we have been able to give consumers a desired alternative while keeping our farm in business.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 20, 2014

Your willingness to exit from selling beef to the feed lot to instead selling beef direct to consumers in your region is the answer for a lot of farmers, but hard for many to embrace. You changed the model, cut out the middleman. The feed lots are the losers in your example because the consumer is no longer interested in their 'value added' segment of the supply chain. Glad you pulled it off and I hope other cattlemen will follow in your foot steps.

James McGrann (not verified)
on Feb 13, 2014

Does anyone realize the anti-hormone movement started in Europe as a trade protection. They can't compete with modern agriculture and want protection. It was not a food safety issue. The same is taking place with GMO technology.
Effective trade restriction also have effective consumer attitude change communication efforts.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 17, 2014

Too many people forget, or never knew the reason for using implants in cattle is to grow more lean muscle, and less fat. The marbling for flavor, which also is the more healthful fat in the beef, may have been compromised in some breeds which may have caused the toughness one commenter noted. Less fat is exactly what consumers asked for. Maybe we were foolish to give them what they wanted???

Withdrawal periods are mandatory and no residues are allowed in beef, period!

So long as non-implanted beef is available, and it is probably the majority, since there are costs to producing the leaner, beef, why the complaints?

One reason may be that much of the complaint seems to come from producers who want to build their own product up not by touting the benefits of taste, price, etc., but by calling that of other producers somehow dangerous for health. Doesn't that indicate insecurity in the benefits of what they sell?

W.E. (not verified)
on Feb 18, 2014

The word is getting out that the fat in beef (especially in grassfed beef) contains very healthful nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin E, beta carotene, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Our beef customers certainly know this. Using implants to make beef leaner does, in our experience, reduce the marbling, making the beef of our white-faced calves much tougher and drier. We did use implants a few times during the 1990s; it was like shooting ourselves in the foot to get a few more pounds. The way that worked best for us to make beef leaner and more healthful was to finish our steers on the highest quality grass we could produce on our farm. We use EPDs to select cattle with better than average (but not maximum) marbling. Breed average backfat on these British calves is just about right. A little more fat actually makes mama cows that survive and thrive better on grass. If their male progeny are finished on high quality forages, they are never too fat or wastey. Another advantage is that the finishing window is much wider in grass-finished cattle than in grain-finished. Here in the upper South, our better fall-born calves can be ready in sixty to ninety days after green-up in their second spring and will produce good tender beef with enough marbling. Steers banded as yearlings can graze 90, 120 or even 200 days, rotating through good pastures with heifers or cows and calves without getting too fat. We usually separate steers from cows and give them a fresh new paddock of the very best forages we have each day during their last 60 to 90 days to finish them. How can even the HSUS argue with that? Depending on the weather, most of our moderate-framed calves are ready to become beef by the time they are 20 to 36 months old without hormones and without grain. (Admittedly, in 2012, irrigated pasture would have been very helpful!)

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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