Dr. Bray Links

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cattle Feeding - Use of Hormones

The use of supplemental growth hormones is controversial. The benefits of using growth hormones includes improved feed efficiency, carcass quality, and rate of muscle development. The cattle industry takes the position that the use of growth hormones allows plentiful meats to be sold for affordable prices. Conversely, there exists customer concern about growth hormone use being linked to a number of human health problems. However, there have been insufficient studies to prove or disprove these concerns. Growth hormones are synthetically created but testing cannot distinguish between artificial hormones and those naturally produced by the animal itself. Using hormones in beef cattle costs $1.50 and adds between 40 and 50 lb (18 and 23 kg) to the weight of a steer at slaughter, for a return of at least $25.

American regulators permit hormone use on the grounds that no risk to human health has been proven. In contrast, most European Union nations have banned them based on the grounds that they have yet to be proven safe. The organic food industry takes the position that the studies that suggest possible concerns should be more closely examined by governmental regulators.

In Canada, all veterinary drugs used in food production processes are required to pass stringent tests and regulations set by the Veterinary Drugs Directorate (VDD) and are enforced by the Food and Drug Act of Health Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) monitors all food products in Canada by sampling and testing by veterinarians and inspectors working on behalf of the provincial and federal governments. They monitor the food supply to condemn and destroy any product that is unacceptable. In the rare case where the CFIA have found a residue, it has been substantially below the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) to make acceptable for safe consumption. The MRL is the maximum amount of a drug residue that may remain in a food product at the time of human consumption. MRLs are safety measures based on Accepted Daily Intakes (ADIs). The ADI level is determined from toxicology studies to be the highest amount of a substance that can be consumed daily throughout a lifespan without causing adverse effects. Beef hormone residues are MRLs that have been established by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the United Nations. Although there is growing concern that hormone residues in meat and milk might be harmful to human and animal health, the quantities of hormones found in a serving of meat are far below the level considered to be a risk to the development of cancer. Besides, the World Health Organization stated that the hormone levels are indistinguishable between the implanted and nonimplanted animals.

There are three natural hormones (estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone) and their synthetic alternatives (zeranol, melengestrol acetate, and trenbolone acetate) have been approved by the VDD for use in Canadian beef production.


According to a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists have found through analysis that one single glass of milk can contain a delightful (or not) medley of up to 20 different kinds of painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones. These medicinal residues, found in samples of cow, goat, and human breast milk, are from a variety of chemicals used to treat animal and human illness.

This research revealed that cow, goat, and human breast milk tested for traces of numerous anti-inflammatory drugs such as niflumic acid, mefenamic acid, flunixin, ibuprofen, diclofenac and ketoprofen -- all of which are commonly used painkillers for animals and humans.

Traces of other drugs, such as lipid regulators, anti-seizures, beta-blockers, antibiotics and various hormones (such as ethinylestradiol and estrone) were found as well.


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