Although hormones are naturally occurring chemical messengers that regulate growth and development in both animals and plants, the addition of these chemicals by the farming industry to speed up maturity is the subject of much debate in the natural health industry. The public was for a time somewhat unaware of what exactly these growth hormones were and what they were doing, but lately a number of possible health issues have been raised, especially involving beef and the meat producing industry in general.
The addition of hormones in meats
For some years now, livestock and other animals have received a number of different growth hormones in order to regulate growth and maturity. The idea is simple enough: animals, particularly beef cattle, are fed with these hormones, and over time this begins to accelerate growth and also distribute muscle tissue more favorably in the animal’s body, making for a much easier process of selecting choice cuts of meat during slaughtering. Just as certain plants have been hybridized over the centuries, a new “breed” of animal evolves, one that ranchers can anticipate its mature form with a very high degree of regularity.
What hormones are used
Hormones added to beef and dairy cattle include estradiol, progesterone and testosterone. These hormones are naturally occurring and are targeted messengers that change the development sequence in farm animals. Also given to cattle are the hormones melengesterol acetate, trenbolone acetate, and zeranol. These three hormones are exogenous, meaning they are not naturally occurring but are synthetically produced to mimic some of the natural hormones found in certain animals. Sometimes one or more of the steroid hormones are included in the animal’s feed, while other cattle receive a timed-release device implanted in their ears.
Concerns over health risks
Obviously, too much or too little of any type of hormone can have a negative effect on one’s health. Studies have shown that a certain amount of growth hormones in beef and dairy cattle remain in the animal’s body during its lifetime, unchanged by enzymes or other chemicals. Therefore the concern is about human ingestion and absorption of these hormones and the likely consequences. It is suggested that unwanted chemical messengers present in humans can lead to a hormonal imbalance, causing growth disorders, complications during pregnancy, a higher risk of breast cancer among women, and earlier onset of puberty in girls, which in itself is known to cause all of the above.
Should genetically altered meat be avoided?
The European Union instigated a ban on all meats produced by animals given steroid hormones, and appeals against this ban continue today. No such ban exists in the U.S. and Canada, but many consumers are making the choice to “go natural” and are purchasing only meats that are certified organic, as organic farms do not allow the use of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). Imported meats from Europe are considered organically produced as well, and are finding their way into the U.S. market. Many farmers are now producing certified organic beef on smaller farms and sending this meat directly to local stores.
If you’re concerned about the potential risks of hormones in your food, look for meat and dairy products labeled organic or rBGH-free. Animals used for organic food products cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones. Buying imported European meat products is also safe, as added growth hormones are banned in the EU.
Today’s post comes from guest blogger Sally from Eat Breathe Blog. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily of Have a Namaste.