Many people may not realize it, but much of the meat we eat contains synthetic growth hormones and other chemicals that may be harmful to us. Why would cattle owners want to use growth hormones? It is all about money. Ranchers today want to produce more cattle in a shorter period. A rancher may only have about 14 months to get the calf from a small size, say 80 pounds, to a selling size (around 1,200 pounds). Growth hormones help the cattle put on weight to get them ready for slaughter in record time as well as reducing the amount of fat in the meat. Nitrates are a chemical compound that can also be found in meat today, being used to cure meat and give them a healthy color. Most notably, nitrates are found in hotdogs, giving them their red color.
The use of hormones in meat is nothing new. As far back as the 1930s, research shows that estrogen affected the growth rates in both cattle and poultry. By the 1950s, a synthetic (man made) estrogen, DES, was being used to increase cattle size. However, DES was found to cause cancer and is no longer used to “fatten” up cattle and chickens.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) current approves of five different types of hormones used in food production. Of these, testosterone and progesterone are produced naturally by the animals and zeranol and trenbolone acetate are synthetically made. These hormones are approved for use only in cattle and sheep. Poultry, such as chickens and turkeys, and pigs do not gain much weight when given these hormones, so they are not given them. Most of these hormones are given to the animal by inserting a pellet under the skin of the ear. The pellet releases the hormone and the ears of the animals are thrown away during slaughtered.
The concern of scientist and consumers both is that traces of the hormones and chemicals will remain in the meat and pose a potential hazard to humans who consume it. Have you noticed that girls today seem to be reaching puberty at a younger age? It is suspected that this may be due to the steroids found in today’s meat. Unfortunately, studies done on the potentially harmful ingredients in meat have proved inconclusive and further studies are needed.