Healthy and Safe Food

Hormones, livestock, and meat

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Fact: Hormones occur naturally in plants and animals, so there is no such thing as hormone-free food. Scientifically, it just isn’t possible. Dairy cows, veal cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys in Canada are not given hormones for milk production or growth promotion — that’s been illegal for about 60 years. Government approved hormone growth promoters are tools used in raising beef cattle to improve the animal’s ability to gain muscle and deposit less fat. This process helps farmers and ranchers to produce more beef with less feed and fewer greenhouse gases. Hormone levels from beef cattle that have received implants are virtually the same as the levels in beef from cattle without the implants. There is more natural variation in the hormone levels of beef from male versus female cattle, than between beef from cattle raised with and without hormones.

The bottom line:

Worldwide, the use of hormones in cattle has been confirmed as being safe and without
impact on human health, by agencies including Health Canada, the World Health
Organization, and the United Nations, and this conclusion is based on ongoing research
and monitoring.

Quick fact:

Hormones are one of many methods which farmers use to keep beef a high-quality, environmentally friendly, and accessible food for Canadians.

What about pesticides?

There are rules for those, too.

Pesticides are substances used by farmers to control different types of pests, and include herbicides for weed control, insecticides for insect control, and fungicides to manage fungal diseases. Pesticides are one of the most effective tools which farmers have to keep insects, weeds, and diseases from damaging and destroying fruits, vegetables, and field crops. They also allow farms to be more sustainable by growing more food on less land. This influence helps to preserve natural forests, wetlands, and other wildlife habitats, while ensuring that we all have enough to eat. You’ll find more information about other pest management approaches, like Integrated Pest Management, on page 23 (in Chapter 3). Canadian farmers who use pesticides have to follow strict rules, and are only allowed to buy and use products that the government has found to be safe for people and the environment. That’s the responsibility of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), a part of Health Canada, which only approves products for use after years of review and testing have proven that they’re both safe and effective. The PMRA’s approaches are risk-based, and seen as the gold standard in terms of pesticide regulation globally. In some provinces, farmers must be tested and certified before being allowed to buy and use these products. Farmers make sure that they’re using pesticide products safely. For example, they make sure that they’re not applying them on windy days, so that the spray doesn’t “drift” away from weeds onto areas where it isn’t supposed to be. Wearing personal protective equipment is another best practice by which to ensure worker safety.

Did you know...

Organic farmers use pesticides too. They’re allowed to use specific variants of natural pesticides that are either farmed from natural sources, or mined from the ground, like vinegars, saps, or sulphurs. Using synthetic or man-made pesticide
products is not permitted in organic production.