Stories, opinions, facts, convictions, and lessons learned from a small town farm girl.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Antibiotics in the Cattle Industry: What is our Future?

A lot of attention has been paid to food safety regulations lately on Capitol Hill - all of which will directly affect cattle producers. 

Beef producers use antibiotics in their management strategy to ensure optimum health of their cattle and to maximize production of their animals.  Antibiotics are used to maintain good health, help prevent the onset of disease, or put a stop to the disease after it occurs.  Without antibiotics, it is safe to say that the United States' cattle industry would not be where it is today and the projected growth we are seeing in the future may not be the case.

Nonetheless, antibiotics are getting a bad reputation and stirring up debate in popular press.  Residue on meat and the development of antibiotic resistance in humans is an on-going concern and is currently being debated in our government system.  Click here to take a closer look at the Food Safety Modernization Act.

This link is a past article by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition that predicted the Congressional popularity of the subject. 

Everyone has his or her own opinion of antibiotics in our livestock industry and there is no doubt that policies, uses, and administration need to be taken a closer look at.  But this is where Beef Quality Assurance comes in to play... BQA is a national program designed to educate producers on proper management techniques, such as antibiotic administration.

No matter what policies Congress passes, we as producers must strive to continue to improve our business in every way possible.  Even if our use of antibiotics is restricted or altered, we must adjust to government policies and keep our eye on the prize: promoting our product and encouraging others to eat beef!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Are hormones fed to cattle affecting the earlier maturation of young girls, the muscle mass of young males, or the life expectancy of humans?

The question of the decade:  
Are hormones fed to cattle affecting the earlier maturation of young girls, the muscle mass of young males, or the life expectancy of humans?

As addressed in my previous post, growth-promoting implants given to cattle use small amount of hormones to increase the efficiency of muscle growth in the animal.  This, in turn, reduces the amount of fat deposition and increases the efficiency of feed conversion.  All of these things are necessary to sustain our growing population and increasing beef demand.

Before believing all the hype thrown about by the media on hormones given to livestock, I ask you to consider these facts:

  • The hormones found in implants, like estrogen, are found in all plants and animals.
  • A 3-ounce serving of beef from a steer that was implanted contains 1.9 nanograms of estrogen, while beef from a non-implanted steer contains 1.3 nanograms.  Only a difference of .6 nanograms is found from one another.
  • Now, consider this (all 3-ounce servings):  Soybean oil contains 168,000,000 nanograms of estrogen.  Wheat germ contains 3,400 nanograms and ice cream has 520 nanograms of estrogen.  Potatoes and peas both contain over 220 nanograms and even milk has 11 nanograms of estrogen per 3-ounce serving.
According to Dr. Rick Rasby, an animal scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, "the average man or woman daily produces 35,000 times more hormones than could be present in beef or any other food."

The long and short of it, hormones fed to cattle or any other livestock are not prevalent enough to harm humans or negatively affect their development or lifestyle in any way.

For references on statistics and information, view this article by Dr. Rasby or this article by Dr. Paul Beck, PhD, of the University of Arkansas.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Elephant in the Room: Taking a Look at the Use of Hormones, Antibiotics, and Other Controversial Topics

Over the next few days, I want to tackle several different hot topics in the beef industry.

These days there is so much hype in the media claiming how important it is to eat "whole" or "clean" or "natural" foods... Organically grown with "no additives" or "no steroids" or "no hormones" seems to be all the rage in the world of human health and nutrition and while the public seems to read article upon article on why to eat this way, where is the voice informing consumers that conventional agricultural practices are not harmful?

Because my research for my Master's focuses on implants, I think that would be a good place to start...

What is an implant?
An implant is inserted into the posterior aspect of the ear of cattle and releases a hormone that promotes growth of the animal.  In order for the implant to be completely effective, the nutritional needs of the animal must be met and with the proper implant strategy, daily gains of the animal could be improved by as much as 20%, depending on the stage of production of the animal at implantation.

Why do we implant cattle?
Along with improving the daily gain of the animal, implants can also provide other benefits.  Implanting helps us get more meat on the table per animal unit.  With the declining numbers of cattle and herd size and the increased demand for beef, we, as producers, must meet the market demands while battling the reduction in the number of animals.

The benefits of using implants far outweigh the downfalls.  As stated previously, implants improve the growth rate of the animal monumentally as well as increasing the amount of red meat on the animal.  With the increasing population of the world and the decline in the number of farmers, it is essential that in order to sustain life, we produce enough food to support the growing human population.  Implants are just one step closer to feeding the world efficiently. 

And let's think of it economically - basic 'Supply & Demand'.  If the demand for beef exceeds the supply, the prices per unit are going to increase.  However, on the contrary, if we can meet the market demand, the price per unit decreases, causing red meat to be more affordable and more apt to be at the center of the dinner table.  And let's be honest, who doesn't want a steak for supper?

Implants have been approved for use for over fifty years and several studies prove that the proper use of implants in cattle do not adversely affect human health as a result of residue levels in meat.

For more in-depth information on implants, visit:
Beef Cattle Implants - A Utah University publication by
Growth-Promoting Implants Affect Food Supply - An article written by my major advisor, Dr. Paul Beck, which leads me right into my next topic...  
Does the use of hormones in cattle production contribute to the trend of increasingly earlier sexual maturation of today's youth?

Let's Try This Again.

It's safe to say that the transition from undergrad to grad school isn't always a smooth one. I haven't written in nearly a year - that's going to change.

I've grown immensely in the past year... moving to Arkansas and digging into my graduate program had it's stumbling blocks, that is for sure, but I've learned and grown so much and I can't wait to talk more about the beef industry with you, along with throwing my personal spin on things.

To briefly catch you up on the past year, I am working on my Master of Science degree at the University of Arkansas. My assistantship is being funded by The Noble Foundation - the foundation I did my internship with last year. My research is focusing on the effects of nutrition and implant strategies on carcass quality and performance of cattle.

Also, I've gotten a Twitter account (which I am VERY new at, so please bare with me). Follow me @jarobinette.

I'm looking forward to discussing with you the importance of all aspects of our industry,
so sit back, relax, and let's talk ag!