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    Ag More Than Ever

Everything you need to know about hormones, in one place

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With so much misinformation circulating about agriculture and the food system, for many people the mere mention of hormones brings up concerns about the safety and quality of food options. But how many consumers actually know the role that hormones play in today’s food production?

We’ve prepared some agvocacy messaging to help you respond to some of the common myths about hormone use.

Hormone use in poultry and pigs

Fact: In Canada, hormones are only approved for use in beef cattle.

Why this is important: One of the most common myths is about the use of hormones in raising poultry and pigs. In the case of broiler chickens, consumers commonly see hormone use as the reason why the size of birds has increased over the years.

Agvocate message: Hormones are never given to chickens, turkeys, egg-laying hens, or pigs. Rather, farmers have learned how to select animals for their genetics and have improved nutrition, which allows these farm animals to grow more efficiently without the need for added hormones.

“Hormone-free” labelling

Fact: There is no such thing as hormone-free beef.

Why this is important: A quick cursory online search about hormones and it is obvious why consumers may be confused about labelling and references to hormone-free beef. As the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) indicates, any meat, poultry or fish product labelled as “hormone-free” is not only misleading but not acceptable.

Agvocate message: Hormones occur naturally in all people, animals, and plants – regardless of what they consume. For that reason, no meat, poultry or fish product is ever considered hormone-free, and any such label is inaccurate. What’s more, the difference in the hormone levels between organic beef and beef from cattle raised conventionally is negligible.

Impacts on human health

Fact: There is no evidence that hormones given to beef cattle are harmful to human health.

Why this is important: Despite extensive studies concluding hormone use is safe, many believe that growth hormones in beef are linked to  certain serious illnesses and developmental issues in children.

Agvocate message: Providing healthy and safe products for consumers is of the highest importance to all Canadian producers. Major governing health authorities have confirmed that the use of hormones in cattle as prescribed is a safe practice that is not harmful to human health. In fact, many common foods contain substantially higher hormone levels than beef.  (The amount of estrogen from one serving of cabbage is equal to the same amount of estrogen from more than 1,000 servings of beef produced using hormones.)

Hormone use in dairy cattle

Fact: The use of growth hormones in milk production is not allowed in Canada.

Why this is important: While some other countries have approved use of the growth hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) to increase milk production, it is not approved for sale in Canada, and this has created confusion for consumers.

Agvocate message:  The standards for Canadian milk are among the highest in the world for safety and quality. Thanks to improved genetics and advancements in technology, Canadian dairy farmers have been able to increase milk production while still maintaining quality without the need for added hormones.

Hormone use harmful to the environment

Fact: Hormone use has proven benefits when it comes to the environment.

Why this is important: Opponents of hormones claim that growth promoters negatively impact the environment. Many are unaware that the use of hormones means fewer resources are required to produce beef, which helps reduce the beef sector’s overall environmental footprint.

Agvocate message: Environmental stewardship is a critical aspect of the Canadian agriculture industry. Hormones serve an important purpose by enabling farmers to produce more beef with fewer resources while reducing environmental impacts. Without hormones, we would need 12% more cattle, 10% more land, and 7% more fuel, while producing 10% more manure and greenhouse gases, just to match the current production rates of Canadian beef.

Further reading:

Alberta Beef Producers – Worried About Hormones in Cattle?

The Real Dirt on Farming Blog – What’s the deal with hormones?

The Real Dirt on Farming (page 31)

Meat MythCrushers – Hormone Use in Beef Production is a Health Concern (video)

Health Canada – Hormonal Growth Promoters

Chicken Farmers of Canada – Hormone Use Banned in Canadian Chickens

Canada Beef – Understanding Beef: Hormones and Other Growth Promotants

Dairy Nutrition (Dairy Farmers of Canada) – Cows and Hormones

Beef Cattle Research Council – Canada’s Veterinary Drug Approval Process

Beef Cattle Research Council – The Environmental Hoofprint of Canada’s Beef Industry

Manitoba Agriculture – Growth Implants for Beef Cattle

McGill University (Office for Science and Society) – Hormones in Cattle

The Poultry Site – Chickens Do Not Receive Hormones: So Why All the Confusion?

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