Wait a minute. There are hormones in carrots?

  

Carrots. Apples. Pigs. Dogs. Cats. Humans. They all depend on hormones to grow and function.

Hormones occur naturally in every living thing, acting as messengers to regulate a wide variety of metabolic processes. “Everything we eat that was once living—from a plant to an animal—contains hormones. Hormones are the messengers in the body that help living things grow,” said cattle producer Joan Ruskamp. “Understanding how hormones work is important to understanding why we use added hormones in cattle.”

Ruskamp and her husband Steve run a cattle feeding operation near Dodge, Nebraska. Hormones are provided to the cattle under the skin behind the ear and stimulate the gland that produces natural hormones in the animal’s body. “Through this implant, we’re supplementing naturally what the animal already has in its own body and it helps steers convert feed to protein more efficiently,” Ruskamp said. “Any added hormone has to be safe for the humans who are going to consume the meat and safe for the environment. We wouldn’t put anything in an animal or our own bodies that is unsafe.“

Ruskamp and her husband Steve run a cattle feeding operation near Dodge, Nebraska. Hormones are provided to the cattle under the skin behind the ear and stimulate the gland that produces natural hormones in the animal’s body. “Through this implant, we’re supplementing naturally what the animal already has in its own body and it helps steers convert feed to protein more efficiently,” Ruskamp said. “Any added hormone has to be safe for the humans who are going to consume the meat and safe for the environment. We wouldn’t put anything in an animal or our own bodies that is unsafe.“

Ruskamp said the use of hormones provides benefits for cattle, cattle producers and consumers. “We can use 10% less feed to produce the same amount of beef—and that efficiency translates into a lower cost for high quality, nutritious beef for consumers,” she said. “It also means we’re responsibly using the land and water required to raise those animals to market weight. It’s a win-win for consumers and producers.”

Screenshot 2020-01-27 16.21.10

How much is a nanogram? 

A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram or one-25 billionth of an ounce. A small paper clip is 1 gram. Cut that into 1 billion pieces and you get a nanogram. Beef from an implanted steer will have about 2 nanograms of estrogen in a quarter-pound burger. That’s miniscule compared to beef from a non-implanted animal at 1 nanogram for the same sized serving. By contrast, women naturally produce 513,000 nanograms of estrogen daily and men produce 136,000 nanograms of estrogen daily—equivalent to eating more than 15,000 pounds of hormone-implanted beef every day!

“If you’re diabetic and choose not to take insulin—which is a product of genetic engineering—you increase your risk of death. In that case, the benefit of genetic technology is very obvious. With food applications, the benefits are less transparent to consumers, even though they are very real.”

Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam
Professor of Animal Biotechnology and Genomics University of California-Davis

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