The Meat You Eat: Steroid Use in Livestock

September 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Diet And Nutrition, Meat

meat-livestockIn yesterday’s article, I discussed the rampant use of antibiotics with livestock – primarily used as a tool to help them grow larger and bigger – and how 70% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. is for livestock use.

But that’s only half the story of the drugging of livestock: antibiotics aren’t the only drugs given to livestock to help them grow faster.

Each year, U.S. farmers raise some 36 million beef cattle. 99% of all beef cattle entering feedlots in the United States are given steroidal hormone implants to promote faster growth.

A large percentage of poultry and pigs are also fed these drugs.

Many cattle are fed the same muscle-building androgens—usually testosterone surrogates—that some athletes consume. Other animals receive estrogens, the primary female sex hormones, or progestins, semiandrogenic agents that shut down a female’s estrus cycle. Progestins fuel meat-building by freeing up resources that would have gone into the reproductive cycle.

Flunix - a steroidal hormone fed to livestock

Flunix - a steroidal hormone fed to livestock

While federal law prohibits people from self-medicating with most steroids, administering these drugs to U.S. cattle is allowed.

There are six anabolic steroids given, in various combinations, to nearly all animals entering conventional beef feedlots in the U.S. and Canada:

* Three natural steroids (estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone), and
* Three synthetic hormones (the estrogen compound zeranol, the androgen trenbolone acetate, and progestin melengestrol acetate).

So this means that when you eat meat, chicken or pork, and drink milk, you are consuming unsafe drugs that weren’t prescribed to you.

Consuming extra hormones disturbs the natural hormonal balance in the body, and eating animal products laced with hormones can have serious consequences for both children and adults.

Kids’ bodies are small and still developing, so exposure to even tiny amounts of the hormones in animal products on a regular basis can have a large impact. According to a report on hormones in meat and milk that appeared in The Los Angeles Times, “The amount of estradiol in two hamburgers eaten in one day by an 8-year-old boy could increase his total hormone levels by as much as 10 percent, based on conservative assumptions, because young children have very low natural hormone levels.”

no-steroids1The Cancer Prevention Coalition warns parents that even small amounts of animal products contain enough hormonal residues to harm children, saying, “No dietary levels of hormones are safe, and a dime-sized piece of meat contains billions of hormone molecules.”

When kids eat the flesh of cows who were treated with hormones, the spike in hormone levels can disrupt the development of their brain and sex organs. According to a report by the European Union on the effects of hormone-laced animal products, “Certain organs are more susceptible to the effects of estrogens, androgens, and anti-androgens [all hormones used in cows raised for food] during development than during adulthood. These organs include the brain, and the … primary and secondary sex organs.”

The negative consequences of feeding children meat were clearly demonstrated in Puerto Rico in the early 1980s, when thousands of children experienced premature sexual development and painful ovarian cysts; the culprit was meat from cattle who had been treated with growth-promoting sex hormones.

Rimadyl - another steroid fed to livestock

Rimadyl - another steroid fed to livestock

The hormones in meat-based diets are also blamed for the early sexual development of young girls in the Western world—nearly half of all African-American girls and 15 percent of their white peers now enter puberty at the age of 8.

Raising the amount of estrogen and other hormones in our bodies through the consumption of meat and milk can cause other disorders, including gynecomastia, or enlarged male breasts. In one school in Italy, nearly one in three boys aged 3 to 5 and more than half of boys aged 6 to 10 were found to have enlarged breasts, and the hormones in meat were suspected to have caused the disorder.

And that’s just the known effects it has on children. For adults, it can have all kinds of repercussions, from hormonal imbalances, to auto-immune problems, cancer, liver and kidney failure, and all kinds of other things.

This is the type of meat you want to eat - antibiotic and hormone free

This is the type of meat you want to eat - antibiotic and hormone free

Questions and controversy over the impacts of these added hormones on human development and health have lingered for four decades. In 1988 the European Union banned the use of all hormone growth promoters in meat because of these issues.

Yet, the U.S. FDA refuses to adequately regulate their use to promote growth in cows, even though these very same drugs in the U.S. are prohibited for over-the-counter use by humans.

And to take it one step further, all concern about the use of steroids in animals has focused on whether trace residues of these hormones in the meat have human-health consequences.

But there’s another way that these powerful agents can find their way into people and other animals. A substantial portion of the hormones literally passes through the cattle into their feces and ends up in the environment, where it can get into other food and drinking water.



27 Responses to “The Meat You Eat: Steroid Use in Livestock”
  1. B9 says:

    1. Why do you classify Flunix & Rimadyl as steroids when they both state they are “non-steroidal” analgesics? The MSDS doesn’t report any steroidal activity, albeit they do appear to be hazardous materials to injest.
    2. Does cooking/heating neutralize the effects of steroids in meat?
    3. Can you have any specific references to these claims? I would like to read a book about this.

  2. MORGAN says:

    I have a quick question? do the steroids that they use on animals to make them grow quicker, affect humans as well?

  3. Absolutely, Morgan, the steroids that are given to animals definitely affect humans. It can affect the body in so many ways, and all of them adversely.

  4. Michele Shields says:

    This is very disturbing; the hormones and steroids used in animals. Not only do the animals suffer and live an unnatural life, the US population has a 65% overweight and obesity crisis. This in conjunction with the other health issues related is rarely exposed to the consumer.

  5. Jawad says:

    tell me what i have to do to grow my cattles in their meet requirments……are they heat the animal body.and also infoem me that which steroid is given to them and how.
    put light on it

  6. janay says:

    this makes so much sense to me. i always knew there was a reason so many woman have hormone issues and don’t even noticed that there has to be a root cause of this not just something that just happens. I’ve put down all animals products and in the process of reversing all my illness threw God’s foods all real natural foods from the earth. I have PCOS and all the doctors wanted to do was drop pills down my throat and give me more fake hormones to so called fix the problem of a imbalance and too many hormones are already causing me problems.. LIKE HELLO WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU PUT MORE FAKE HORMONES IN MY BODY TO BALANCE A OVERLOAD OF HORMONES PRESENT IN MY BODY.. SO GUESS WHAT??? YOUR FIRED/// I FEEL GREAT EATING ALL REAL AND WHOLE FOODS AND SOON I KNOW I WILL REVERSE THIS AND HAVE KIDS SOMEDAY..ASSHOLES ROBBED ME OF EVER HAVING KIDS FOR MONEY…GEE THANKS…no meds

  7. Agriscience says:

    First off, you do not have references or sources were you recieved this info.

    1. According to Cornell university, “This fact sheet addresses some of the consumer concerns that have been brought to BCERF regarding health effects of hormones used by the meat and dairy industries. Evidence available so far, though not conclusive, does not link hormone residues in meat or milk with any human health effect.”

    2.According to American Cancer Society, ” At this time, it is not clear that drinking milk, produced with or without rBGH treatment, increases blood IGF-1 levels into a range that might be of concern regarding cancer risk or other health effects.”

  8. i think steriods user on animals should be punished. They are playing life of other.

  9. Zach Franklin says:

    OMG!!! THis explains it all. Why my 22-year old daughter has bigger breasts than her mother, she actually had to get breast reduction surgery. We found out she was having sex at age 11, by age 16 she had an ovarian cyst. My 2 sons James and Steve both have that bitch tit issue, overweight as hell, and when they were born, me and my wife noticed that their penis’ were longer than normal. My wife jokingly said, they both got their own kick stand. THen she pissed me off and said it mostly likely came from her side of the family. BS!BS!BS! NOW, I know the Truth. It was all that goddamn McDonald food we had been eating over the years. Both my sons are Bi-polar,OCD, with ADDHD. Steve almost killed himself in the 9th grade. James got 2 girls pregnant in the 6th grade. MY LIFE HAS BEEN HELL!!! All because of this BS!!! Let this be a warning to all those that have problems with their kids, that American Beef is tainted with EVIL.

  10. Taylor says:

    How Do You Figure all of this Out Do You Have to Do Test on People And Animals?

  11. No, the easiest solution if you are to eat meat is to buy product that clearly states that there are no added steroids/hormones. Packaging will clearly identify it as such. If you have a Whole Foods near you, they sell this type of meat, but many supermarkets also now carry it – just look through the meat section until you find the brand without.

  12. dr.lessly carthan jr says:

    last burger of meat my family ate was the mc.dlt in 1989.weve been eating organic veggies from are acre and boiled ans shelved water since 1947,our milk came from grass cows but we havent had real milk since grandmothers died in there 100’s.i try to tell all my patients to invest in ther private garden and natual remedies to alternatives to were thinking im hurting my business,no im a external doctor and my clients who follow my advice heal fast,run fast and from stories the sex is tnt.this method of juicing the meats is a act of bottom liners profit over people,population control and more profit,sick in america is exspensive but the cure is simple,make your own farm,buy organic milk and eat the less amount of steroids,turkey products,yes most cant afford it so you eat less and stay in shape,simple garden of eden had no meat,old school.

  13. John Adam Turner says:

    I have raised cattle my whole life and have come to understand that by 2050 the population will increase by 2.3 billion people. American Farmers and Farmers around the world need to trust the Biotechnology advancements that have been made now more than ever as we are entering this arduous effort to feed then ever-growing population. Grass-fed beef is available to those who desire it although I honestly believe most are unknowing as to why they have even started giving these animals steroids. This keeps the animal healthy while going through out its growing period. This is where money is saved, keeping the Livestock alive is very important to saving money.I hope this does not upset anyone and if you don’t like the idea of eating this type of livestock their are other options for consumers.

  14. marta bady says:

    hoooooly, that really helps me on my research project!!!!!!

  15. Benjamin O'Quaye says:

    I raise poultry in Ghana and find no need for these steroidal hormones like FLUNIX and RIMADYL when all needed are fish meal, corn, soybeans, calcium for shell and bone growth to get the same growth and sometimes the birds grow bigger at an earlier duration. I honestly will like to know the reason for these growth hormones on our livestock.

  16. vegetarian says:

    Will composted manure pass steroids and or antibiotics on to plants, in dangerous amounts for vegetarians?

  17. That’s an interesting question, Vegetarian, and one I don’t think many people think about. I would say that there is a good chance that composted manure can pass steroids onto the plants, which can then be eaten and absorbed by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Steroids are fat-soluble, so they don’t break down that easily and can be stored in fat cells for a long time before eventually breaking down. So it seems they can be stored in the manure and then break down in the soil and become absorbed by the plants and eventually absorbed by humans. This may also be the case with antibiotics, although antibiotics can be broken down by microbial action much more readily than steroids, so it’s possible they may not make it into the plants, although that’s not a certainty either.

  18. Jive120 says:

    Are there any books on this topic

  19. There are definitely some books on the subject. Try “The World Peace Diet,” by Will Tuttle

  20. dan says:

    I read articles and dont know who to believe anymore, I just read about 5 articles that stated antibiotics ans steroids are not allowed in any chicken in the USA ? and they outlawed chicken in cages ?? any info on this ?

  21. Animal Science says:

    Dr. Wayne,

    Several issues with your article has come into place.
    First, FDA does NOT allow steroid hormone implant use in poultry or swine.
    Secondly, the maximum hormone residue level allowed (as set by the FDA) in beef is significantly lower than the hormonal content of organic foods such as potatoes and wheat. (you can find this in the FRI briefing done by Dr. Doyle at the University of Wisconson)
    Thirdly, it has been found that natural and organic beef contained more volatile residues from ingested pesticides than conventional beef. (Smith et al. 1996)
    Finally, as a Ph.D you must know that plagiarism is ethically and morally wrong especially in the scientific community. I understand this is a web blog but you must give credit where it’s needed. Most of your article is word for word copied off of Janet Raloff’s article “Hormones: Here’s the beef” published in 2002. Please cite your sources, give credit and quotations where they are needed, and research scientific articles before posting.
    Good luck on future endeavors.


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