These Little Piggies Ate a Quarter Pounder a Day

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Does eating beef from implanted cattle cause young girls to reach puberty sooner?

Hormonal growth promotants have been used in beef cattle for a long time. The newest one (trenbolone acetate) has been around for nearly 35 years, while implants containing estradiol have been around for 60 years. Growth promotants improve growth rates and feed efficiency, but also reduce environmental impacts. A 2012 paper by Capper and Hayes (J. Anim. Sci. 90:3527-3537) estimated that producing the same amount of beef without growth promotants would require 12% more cattle, 11% more feed, 10% more land, 7% more fertilizer, 8% more fuel, produce 10% more manure and greenhouse gas, and increase retail prices by 8%.

Consumer concerns around the safety of the beef from implanted cattle are more recent. Plants also contain estrogen-like hormones (phytoestrogens), so a counter-argument is that ‘there are more hormones in the bun than in the burger’. Continue reading