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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sharing our Story - Hormones

One of the most fulfilling things for me to do is to share the story of growing up on a cattle farm with others who are not familiar with the lifestyle.  I love answering questions, showing pictures, and offering contact information in case they want to get in touch with me again.

Lately, one of the most frequently asked questions is "Are hormones used in livestick causing girls to become sexually mature earlier than in the years past?"  I actually got asked this a few months ago at church and it continues to be resurfaced everywhere I turn.
I wrote a little on this in a past post, and because my research for graduate school is on implant strategies, it is a topic I am very passionate about. 

Even though this is a common question among the American consumers, often times when we, as farmers and ranchers, are "on the spot," we are uncertain of the correct answer to this question.  Some facts about hormones in cattle:

  • 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.
While it is difficult to be able to regurgitate all those numbers and exact quantities, in summary we can plainly see that 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.  In fact, with the growing population of the world, implants are not only key factors but imperative in order for enough red meat to be produced to feed the people of the world.


  1. The only other thing that might help is to try to explain the size of a nanogram to people.

    Keep the information coming.

    judi @

  2. You have explained the minute difference, by .6 nano-grams, but why is it imperative to even add estrogen to the cattle? Added estrogen can cause a lot of alterations, granted I understand you are saying cattle's increase is very small. With soy the amount of estrogen is dramatic.
    "These phytoestrogens have been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues, and drinking only two glasses of soy milk daily for one month has enough of the chemical to alter a woman's menstrual cycle."

    So, as I asked, why is estrogen being added to the beef? I'm not contradicting you in anyway, I would just like a clarification of why.

  3. "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." So this makes them able to convert their feed mass into body mass faster? Am I understanding that correctly? So how much of a conversion difference is their? How "efficient" is it to add these hormones? You have spiked my interest and curiosity.

  4. Meredith, Thank you for your interest and comments! Sorry for the delayed response, I had class yesterday afternoon and didn't check this until this morning. Stay posted for the answers to your questions - I will continue the discussion on hormonal implants in my next post.