Beef Cattle Production | Growth Hormones in Cattle

Background - Growth Hormones in Cattle

Numerous U.S. and international scientific studies have shown that the U.S. cattle industry produces safe and wholesome beef. Growth-promoting hormones help stimulate growth by increasing the efficiency in which feed is converted to muscle. Certain products, when administered to animals in very small amounts, supplement their natural hormone production and improve growth rates by allowing the animal to produce more muscle and less fat. This helps the industry produce leaner beef for consumers.

Consider these points…

  • Just like human drugs, these products go through thorough testing and a rigorous review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are approved for use.

  • There is a three-level threshold process that creates an enormous margin of safety to protect human health:

    1. It begins by identifying a level at which no effect on human health is seen in research studies.

  • To that level, FDA adds a margin of safety (essentially taking the no-effect level and multiplying it many times over.)

  • And the final threshold is at the production level where the level used in cattle is far less than the margin of safety FDA sets.

  • As an example, FDA has set a tolerance on estrogen levels in beef from cattle receiving an estrogen-containing implant. The safe level is 21 billionths of a gram. On average, a serving of beef actually has a fraction of that allowable level - .3 billionths of a gram - nearly 57,000 times lower than what the FDA allows, and thousands of times lower than what our bodies naturally produce, not to mention a fraction of what is present in many other foods such as soybean oil, cabbage, cereals and grains.

  • The scientific conclusions of the FDA, the World Organization for Animal Health and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the world’s food safety body, indicate that the miniscule amount of estrogen in beef from cattle receiving implants is well below any level that would be of significance to humans.

  • In most instances, estrogen levels in beef from implanted cattle are so low, that it’s virtually impossible to detect. Consequently the data illustrates the use if estrogen-containing implants has no impact on humans.

Beef Cattle Production Facts - Growth Promotants in Cattle

What are Growth Promotants?A growth promotant is typically a small pellet that is implanted under the skin on the back of an animal’s ear. The pellet releases tiny amounts of hormone and safely dissolves as the treatment is completed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a “withdrawal” period between when an animal is treated and when it can go to a meat packing plant.

FDA Approved.Growth promoting products are approved by the FDA based on rigorous scientific testing procedures similar to those used for human medications.

Declared Safe.The use of growth promotants in cattle production has been declared safe by scientific organizations worldwide, including the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization, the European Commission Agriculture Division and the Codex Committee on Veterinary Residues.

Safety Assured.The safe use of growth promotants in beef production is assured by the product approval procedures required by the FDA, as well as by the on-going testing policies and procedures administered by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). FSIS regularly tests for residues in meat that would indicate misuse of growth promoting products and has not found any.

Human Health.Growth promotants have been used in agriculture for more than 50 years without any negative affect on human health. Beef producers feed their animals the best science-based diet available and use humane animal husbandry practices. Growth promotants allow producers to deliver leaner beef and use fewer acres for grain, which is better for the environment.

Small Amounts Found in Beef.The different levels of estrogen found in beef from cattle raised with or without growth promotants is miniscule.

Note: 3-ounce serving of beef from a steer treated with growth promotants contains 1.9 nanograms of estrogen.

Note: 3-ounce serving of beef from a steer raised without growth promotants, such as certified organic beef contains 1.3 nanograms of estrogen.

FDA Approved Safe Levels. One serving of beef from a steer implanted with a growth promotant has nearly 20 times less estrogen than what the FDA permits and thousands of times less than what our bodies naturally produce, not to mention a fraction of what is present in many other foods such as soybean oil, cabbage and grains.

Naturally Occurring Hormones.The hormones in growth promotants, like estrogen, are naturally occurring and are found in all plants and animals.

Food (3-Ounce Servings)

Estrogen (in nanograms)

Soybean Oil








Ice Cream


Wheat Germ


Hormones in the Human Body.The human body produces hormones in quantities much greater than could ever be consumed by eating any food. In fact, the average man or woman daily produces 35,000 times more hormones than could be present in beef or other food.
Sources: Food and Drug Administration; Hoffman and Evers; Scanga et al.; FSIS-USDA; Dr. Harlan Ritchie, Michigan State University; NCBA
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