The Health Risks of Hormone Treated Beef and Milk
Many cattle are given hormones–whether to make them grow faster for slaughter or to increase their milk production. Expediting cows’ growth and milking capacity yields more profit for agricultural companies, but they may be passing on a hidden cost–at the expense of consumers’ health.
There are a number of hormones used in cattle, including natural hormones like testosterone and progesterone, but also synthetic hormones such as Zeranol, Melengestrol, Trenbolone, and rBGH. These hormones can be found in the beef and milk we consume.
Although their use has been approved by the USDA and FDA, there have been increasing concerns about the public health costs of widespread hormonal consumption. At the heart of these concerns is the possibility that consumption of meat and milk that have been treated with hormones and contain hormones residues may interfere with human hormonal balance, potentially causing reproductive problems, developmental problems, and certain types of cancer.
Who’s At Risk From Hormone Treated Beef and Milk?
Human fetuses, children, and pregnant women are thought to be most susceptible to the health risks of hormonally treated beef and milk–as their hormonal balances are more easily thrown into disequilibrium. For example, young girls may experience an earlier onset of puberty than normal due to hormones in the food they consume, putting them at greater risk for breast cancer. Read more about rBGH, rBST, and the health risks of milk produced with these hormones.
Environmental Impacts of Hormone Use in Cows
There’s also growing concern about the environmental effects of treating cattle with hormones. Hormones are secreted into cows’ manure and from there may be carried into the water supply, impacting local ecosystems. Studies have shown that reproduction and gender in fish, in particular, are disrupted by the presence of these hormones.
The consequences of using these hormones has yet to be fully determined, but there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that they may have adverse effects on the health of humans and animals that ingest them. The European Union has already banned their use and put a wholesale embargo on meat produced in the United States. Many domestic farms are following suit, but there are powerful interests that have a great deal at stake and are working to ensure that there is not a legal ban in the U.S.
[photocredit: Canadian Health Coalition; Lily’s Animal Blog]