All of us want to ensure the food we’re feeding our families is safe to eat. Occasionally, food labels increase confusion about the safety of substances such as added hormones and antibiotics.
Let’s explore the distinct difference between hormones and antibiotics — and shed light on the facts about their uses on the farm.
Q: Why do farmers provide livestock with antibiotics?
Joan: Antibiotics assist animals recovering from an illness or disease. Even with the best of conditions, we know some cattle will get sick occasionally. Having antibiotics as a tool helps us relieve the suffering disease can cause and get that animal back with its penmates. Detailed records are kept whenever antibiotics are used to make sure there are no antibiotics in the meat we eat.
Q: Is it safe to consume foods that have been treated with antibiotics?
Joan: Studies have shown that use of antibiotics in cattle is NOT causing antibiotic resistance in humans. Farmers and ranchers care deeply about making sure families have access to antibiotics that work to treat human illnesses. Nothing should compromise that.
Q: Why do farmers sometimes use added hormones in livestock?
Dawn: Some farmers insert a “hormone implant” in beef cattle just behind the ear. Hormone implants release hormones over a long period of time as the animal grows. They help cattle to grow more efficiently, using fewer resources. Using growth hormones in beef cattle decreases the carbon footprint of a very nutrient-dense protein for human consumption.
Joan: Hormones are naturally occurring chemical messengers in all living things. Hormones regulate appetite, respiration, sleeping, reproduction and much more. Plants, animals and humans depend on hormones to exist. When we use an added hormone for cattle, we are basically adding another messenger to help that animal use less feed as it grows.
Q: Are hormones in my food dangerous?
Dawn: All approved steroid implant products have a zero-day withdrawal. That means that the meat from the animal is safe for humans to eat at any time after the animal is treated.
Joan: Studies continue to show added hormone use in cattle is NOT related to early puberty in girls. It’s important to remember both antibiotics and hormones pass numerous levels of approval to make sure they are safe for the animal, safe for humans and safe for the environment.