When it comes to the use of hormones in beef cattle, sometimes there are more questions than answers. Reynold Bergen, PhD, with the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), breaks down why hormones are used and how they work in a recent BCRC webinar.
He tackles the question that is at the top of everyone’s mind – is the use of hormone implants safe? (Spoiler alert — yes!).
Although there has been sound scientific research to back up the decades-old practice of using hormonal growth implants, one can find many headlines to falsely suggest otherwise. It’s important to take a critical look at the source of such information. Is it credible? Do the studies reflect the science, real world conditions or practices? Who are the authors of the article and who performed the study?
Both natural and synthetic hormones have been used in cattle for more than fifty years. Numerous studies have assessed the potential risk of hormone implants in beef. In order for veterinary products like growth implants to be approved and registered for use, a few steps must take place:
- The efficacy of the product must be proven. The growth promotant must actually promote growth in beef cattle;
- The safety of the product must be proven. Scientists test the product on a variety of host animals until they determine what the safe dosage level is;
- Scientists must adjust for uncertainty factors that may cause the safe dosage level to vary. For example, gender, age, and stage of life of the host can affect the dosage. A much-reduced Acceptable Daily Intake is determined;
- Peer-reviewed research continues on the impact of products on animals, humans, and the environment.
The safety of hormone implants is well established. Hormone implants also provide important environmental benefits by helping cattle grow faster, using less feed resources. Ongoing research assesses the impact of hormones on animals, humans, and the environment yet worrisome headlines surrounding hormones and human health exist. Public concerns are real and addressing them is a responsibility of everyone including beef stakeholders.
Like all past BCRC webinars, you can watch the full recording at any time:
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