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

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?

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