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Food safety on livestock farms
What about hormones?
Hormones occur naturally in humans, plants and animals. Here are some important facts and examples for you to consider.
1. Are poultry or pigs raised using hormones?
One of the biggest myths is about the
use of hormones in poultry and pigs. No chickens, turkeys, egg-laying hens or pigs are ever fed hormones in Canada or the United States. Today’s animals grow more ef ciently and quickly thanks to better genetics and nutrition. Using added hormones would cause birds to grow more quickly than would be healthy for them.52
2. Are there hormones used in milk production?
Not in Canada. Canadian dairy farmers use genetics, better nutrition, and even robotic milkers – which let each cow decide when it wants to be milked – to increase milk production. In some countries, farmers can use a hormone that occurs naturally in the pituitary glands
(a part of the brain) of all cattle to boost cows’ milk production. This product is not licensed for use in Canada.
3. Why are hormones sometimes used in raising beef cattle?
Hormones occur naturally in all animals, people and plants – including beef cattle. There are, however, both natural and synthetic versions of hormones approved by Health Canada for use in beef, and some beef farmers choose to use them. You may be wondering why they do that, and what that means for you and the beef you eat. Here’s the scoop:
• Hormones help cattle convert the food they eat into muscle more quickly and easily, meaning that they will develop more lean meat instead of fat. This means fewer resources are needed to raise each animal.
• A growth-promoting hormone implant can be given to cattle in the form of a pellet that goes under the skin. Over the next 100 to 120 days, the pellet slowly dissolves and releases the hormone.53
• All beef cattle, regardless of whether a hormone implant is used, produce meat with similar levels of hormones. Hormone levels are measured in nanograms (one nanogram is a very tiny amount: one billionth of a gram). The estrogen in a serving of beef is very low, especially when compared to the amounts of hormones naturally produced in the human body.
• Worldwide, the use of hormones
in cattle as prescribed has been con rmed as safe and as having no impact on human health by agencies including Health Canada, the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.54
• Hormone levels from beef cattle that have received growth promoters
is virtually the same as the level in beef from cattle not given growth promoters. There is more variation
in the hormone levels of male versus female beef cattle than between treated and untreated animals.55
Michelle Jaelin
David Ennis & Leith Symon Ennis
Courtesy of Alberta Beef
The Real Dirt on Farming 31

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