Should I be concerned about hormones and antibiotics in my food?

Prudent use of antibiotics and hormones is a major concern for farmers and ranchers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict rules governing the use of artificial hormones and antibiotics in food animals. Livestock farmers/ranchers work closely with veterinarians to treat sick animals or use artificial hormones. The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regularly perform random tests for traces of antibiotics in meat nationwide, to ensure consumers food remains free of antibiotics. Every tank of milk that leaves a dairy farm is tested for a variety of things, including traces of antibiotics. Positive tests of antibiotics can result in hefty fines and penalties that can ultimately put a farmer/rancher out of business. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), artificial hormones are not a concern in the food supply because residue levels in the meat are safe and well below any level that would have a known effect in humans.

Why are artificial hormones used?

Every living animal and plant produces hormones that regulate all body functions like growth, maturity, and heat cycles. Artificial hormones are sometimes used in the meat and dairy industries to safely increase outputs. According to the FDA, these drugs can increase the animals’ growth rate, the efficiency by which they convert the feed they eat into meat, and the leanness of their meat. Artificial hormone implants are approved for use by the FDA in beef cattle, sheep, and dairy cattle. For more on hormone implants click here

Despite recent reports, hormones are not used in the poultry or swine industry. For more information click here.

Why and when are animals given antibiotics?

Antibiotics are given to livestock when they are sick due to an infection from bacteria, just like in humans. Farmers and ranchers work with their veterinarians to treat sick animals and prudently use antibiotics. Antibiotics help keep young animals healthy as they are highly susceptible to septicemia, scours, diarrhea and pneumonia due to weaning or low colostrum intake from nursing.

Do artificial hormones used in the meat and dairy industries have an impact on human puberty?

There is no research that links early onset of puberty in kids to the use of artificial hormones in the meat and dairy industries. In fact, there is no one known cause of early onset of puberty in adolescents. Plants and animals naturally produce hormones. In fact, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation 1.3 nanograms of Estrogen was found in a 3 oz steak from a steer raised without growth promotants vs 1.9 nanograms found in a 3 oz steak from a steer treated with artificial hormones. The U.S. Meat Export Federation notes, 3 oz of soybean oil contains 168,000,000 nanograms of Estrogen.

Is antibiotic resistance an issue I should be worried about?

Antibiotic resistance is something that should always be of concern. Antibiotics are prudently used in livestock and humans, and it is the responsibility of every doctor, veterinarian, and consumer to ensure they are not being negligent in using antibiotics. The FDA sets strict guidelines for each antibiotic and information on proper use is clearly defined on product labels. It is illegal to use antibiotics any other way than is stated on the label, unless otherwise directed by a licensed veterinarian.

For More Information on antibiotics/hormones:

“Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Processing Animals.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 
“Hormones in Milk and Meat.” CommonGround. 
“Antibiotics in Meat and Milk.” CommonGround. 
“Myth: Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production is Increasing and This is a Human Health Risk.” Meat MythCrushers.