What’s your Beef?
What’s your Beef?

What’s your Beef?

By Courtney Nestman, University of Saskatchewan student

Implants Safe for Cattle and Consumers

With the rise of social media and scare tactic marketing, many consumers are being unnecessarily driven away from eating beef. Hormones are used in beef production to produce leaner beef, improve feed efficiency, increase average daily gains, and get cattle to market weight sooner. There are six hormonal growth promoters approved by Health Canada for beef production; three natural- progesterone, testosterone, estradiol, and three synthetic- trenbolone acetate, zeranol, and melengestrol acetate. Misinformation has led consumers to believe that the beef they eat is unsafe and pumped full of hormones. For some, the idea of hormones implanted in beef is scary, although it is safe for both cattle and consumers. I would like to explain why hormones don’t deserve a bad rep, or a boycott on beef, or A&W’s crooked advertising of “Better Beef”.

When it comes to animal implants, producers are encouraged to use a certain procedure to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the animal. Growing up on a cattle farm, I can advocate that it is much easier, safe, and less time consuming, all of which provides the animal with a stress-free and healthy environment. To ensure the meat will not be contaminated or toxic, the implant is inserted into the middle third of the ear between the skin and the cartilage. Beef producers use these hormones for simple reasons that are important to sustainable beef production: more beef can be produced with a lower intake of feed and they can reach finishing weight sooner. This is very important when it comes to sustainable beef production. The use of growth hormones results in less feed, less water, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions to produce a pound of beef. This is a win for both producers and consumers.

A number of hormones found in implanted beef are substantially less than many other common foods/supplements. “A person would need to eat 3,000,000 hamburgers made with beef from implanted cattle to get as much estrogen as the average adult woman produces every day or 50,000 hamburgers to get as much estrogen as the average adult man produces every day,” says BCRC’s science director, Dr Reynold Bergen. A few examples:

Food/ SupplementEstrogen (1ng = 1 billionth of a gram)
75g Beef (not implanted)1.1ng
75g Beef (implanted)1.9ng
355ml Beer15ng
75g Cabbage2025ng
Birth Control Pill20 000 to 50 000ng

What I want consumers to understand is this:Stopping the use of growth promoters in cattle I believe would have detrimental effects on both producers and consumers. Implants cost between $2 to $6, and the return can range from $10 to $60, plus savings on feed costs and larger carcass weights at the time of slaughter. Without the use of the hormones, it is likely a producer will make less money, less beef will be available in the store, and the cost of beef will rise due to low supply. There are no problematic effects for the consumer and the use of hormones is a huge advantage for producers; it provides the best outcome for them, their cattle, and the consumer.
  • The health of livestock and consumers always come first.
  • Hormones are used to improve feed efficiency, which means less feed to produce more beef, produce leaner beef, and create a sustainable food source.

If you would like to learn more about safe hormone use in beef cattle:

What’s your Beef? 1Courtney Nestman

Courtney is a third-year student at the University of Saskatchewan and in her first year of the agronomy diploma program. She has always been involved in agriculture whether it was working on her families cattle farm near Avonlea, Saskatchewan, university, or summer jobs. When Courtney graduates she plans to pursue a career in the ag industry and share her passion for agriculture with others.