Hormone Growth Promotants in Meat

10 October 2016

Biology Report Hormone Growth Promotants in Meat Implantation of HGP in meat- is a highly controversial issue not only in New Zealand but also around the world. There is also many myths and misconceptions surrounding added HPG’s in the meat that we consume. In this report I will be discussing the effects of HGP in meat, the opinions for and against this procedure and also my own personal stance and proposed societal action. Hormones are certain chemicals that are naturally present in all organisms.

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These hormones are heavily involved in an organisms body functions and are essential for reproduction, development and growth. (a1) Hormones ability to stimulate growth is the reason that they are implanted in meat. These hormones are called HGP which stands for Hormone Growth Promotants. “An HGP is any veterinary medicine containing either natural of synthetic hormones sold for the purpose of increasing muscle tone, growth rate, weight gain or feed efficiently of animals”. (a2) There are five main hormones that have been approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) to be used in meat implantation.

These hormones are three naturally occurring ones which are Estradiol, progesterone and testosterone and two synthetic hormones which are zeranol and trenbolone acetate which mimic estradiol and testosterone. Estradiol, progesterone and zeranol are Estrogenic which means that they affect female characteristics. Testosterone and Trenbolone are androgenic which refers to hormones affecting the characteristics of males. (a3) When hormones in meat are considered many think of poultry growth being stimulated by hormones (E. g in chicken breasts).

However, contrary to common belief the implantation of HGPs are banned in all poultry production by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry(a5). Hormones in chicken has been banned in New Zealand for many decades and also in many western countries around the world. The outbreak of breast enlargement in males in Milan 1977 was thought to be linked to hormones in chicken stimulating the growth through consumption, however this was never proven. The public fears were also fueled by a misinformed World Health Organization plea to ban all hormones being administered to poultry used for human consumption.

It was reported that 80% of the population believed that Chickens grow fast artificially. This belief is completely false with chicken being 100% hormone free and all meat is regularly tested for the presence of hormones in case they are being administered illegally. One reason that chickens are thought to be grown artificially is because of their increase in size over the last 40 years. However this increase in size is due to the development of selective breeding where the birds of desirable characteristic are bred to promote stronger breeds. (a4).

Many products stipulate that the chicken is “hormone-free”. This is not differentiating them from another product that is adding hormones, it is rather stating industry-wide policy. It is not company policy, it is industry policy. (a5) Now we have established that HGP are NOT present in poultry or implanted in the meat in anyway, what meat does contain added HGPs. Beef is the only meat that has been approved to be implanted with HGPs and produced for human consumption and for the purpose of this report I will use the hormone implantation of cattle as my primary example of this process.

Growth promoting hormones help to stimulate growth by increasing the efficiency in which feed is converted to muscle. These hormones supplement their natural hormones and improve growth rates by allowing the animal to produce more muscle and less fat. This produces a better quality and leaner meat. The FDA has only approved one place of implantations and that is under the skin on the back of the cattle’s ear. It is illegal to implant the edible muscle tissue as this would cause dangerously high hormone concentrations in the meat that is being consumed.

Ears become byproducts. The hormone capsule is injected into the the animals ear and the pallet dissolves, slowly releasing the hormones into the blood stream to be circulated around the body. The FDA requires a withdraw period between when an animal is treated and when it can be slaughtered for meat packing so the hormones have time to processed. (A6)(A7) The residue levels in the meat produced must be less than one percent of the daily hormone production of children for it so be safe. (A8).

Through the development of this process there has been many subsequent effects on the animals, human health, the economy and the environment. Many of these effects cause controversy and need more research to be conducted to substantiate claims. Our first area of immediate effect is on the animals who are being injected. The biological effects of these hormonal implantations on the cattle is quite circumstantial as there is no serious detrimental effects to the animals health in a properly conducted implantation. However, it is errors in this process that lead to negative effects.

Firstly the correct dosage must be administered because a high dosage may cause blockage of the intestinal and reproductive systems. A high amount of hormones can also cause weight to be gain too rapidly which can become painful for the animal and cause crippling. Secondly, the age, weight and condition of the cattle must be taken into consideration. The animal should be in the final fattening stage and mature enough to cope with the increase of hormones. The correct dosage must be given to an animal who is in the optimum condition to receive it. B1) Other side effects such as raised tail heads, bulling and testicular prolapses have been observed however these effects seem to be only caused by incorrect implantations (B2) Once again proving that the negative effects of the hormones on the animals are circumstantial and caused by error rather than the hormones themselves. The most common errors of implantation are: Crushing the implant which will cause the pellets to release the hormones too quickly. Injecting the pellet into the cartilage of the ear where there is no blood flow so no absorption. Similar result with implanting straight into the skin.

Severing a blood vessel will cause the absorption to be too rapid. And lastly sanitation is important as unsterile needles will lead to infection. (B3) The implantation method has been approved and the dosage of the hormones is at a safe level for the animal to process. Therefore the negative biological effects on the animal are minimal to none and are only caused by error in the method of implantation. Biological effects on human health This is the most pressing concern of HGPs in meat- the effect on the consumers health by eating meat that has been “pumped with hormones”.

The only hormone ever proven to increase the risk of threatening diseases such as cancer was DSE used to fatten up poultry and cattle. However this was banned over 30 years ago now because it was thought to be a cancer-causing chemical. (B4) Since then the hormones that have been approved have been used without any negative affect on human health reported. In most cases the estrogen levels in beef are so low that they are virtually impossible to detect. (B5) This illustrates how such low levels of hormones end up in the meat that it cannot possibly affect human health.

This is further proven by a report that states, “A 3-ounce serving of beef from an implant steer has 1. 9 nanograms of estradiol, and a 3-ounce serving of beef form a non-implanted calf has 1. 3 nanograms. There are 28 billion nanograms in 1 ounce; therefore the difference is extremely minuscule”. (B6) This shows that the amount of hormone that ends up in the meat is so small that it could never pose serious risk to a consumers health. It is also important to note that the human body produces hormones in quantities much greater than could ever be consumed by eating any food.

An average man or woman produces an astounding 35000 times more hormones than could ever be present in food. (B7) Therefore the concern over creating a hormone imbalance by consuming treated meat is minimal because the amount is so small in proportion to the amount we naturally produce. The only way our hormone balanced could be seriously threatened is by consuming meat that had been implanted incorrectly by misplacement of the implant (e. g straight into the muscle cells). This would be a critical error in method which is safe guarded by all meat being tested before being processed for this very reason.

Overall the use of hormones produces a leaner and more quality meat that has reduced level of fat which is beneficial to the consumer. One more developing concern is that food allergies will be developed from these hormones as allergies are caused by changes in proteins which are hormones. (B8) On the environment- As with most things these days the affect a process has on the environment is always taken into consideration. The positive effect on the environment is that HGPs shorten the amount of time the animal must feed and increases the rate in which feed in converted to muscle which subsequently reduces the acres of grain that is consumed.

New research into the negative effects of HGPs on the environment reveals that a even though the residue of hormones in meat is minimal, a substantial amount of hormones pass through the cattle into their feces and end up in the environment. (B9) It is here that they can spread into produce and drinking water. A study showed that cow treated with melengestrol acetate revealed that this hormone was traceable in the soil up to 195 days after implantation. B10) Other researchers have found that hormones entering waterways are affecting the native fish with females beginning to exhibit male characteristics and vis versa because of this high hormone concentration. (B11) The excretion of these hormones appears to be contaminating our soil and water and also our fish. (B12) However no serious threat to our environment has been posed, but overtime the negative effects may become more apparent. On the economy- Considering the effects on the economy offers us the sole reason many farmers use HGPs. These hormones boost the rate of growth in cattle and stimulates the development of muscle.

Because farmers are paid based on the weight of the animal- hormones are seen as a very good way to increase their profits. (B13) The slow process of fattening up cattle to be ready for slaughter hinders that rate profit can be produced. The HGPs increase the rate of production by decreasing the feeding time the cattle need to gain weight, because it causes them to convert feed faster it also lowers the amount of feed needed. Furthermore this shortened growth period causes a greater turnover of production and stimulates greater profits. (B14). Michael J Feilds reports that it cost about $1-$3 per head to treat lives stock.

Growth increases by 20percent and it consumes 15percent less feed then untreated animals. “this feed efficiency works out to a cost savings of about $40 per head- so you get more protein at a cheaper cost”. (B15) This does not only benefit the farmers but also large fast-food chains (e. g McDonalds) benefit by HGPs being allowed because they can buy and sell meat that is cheaper (from treated animals) rather than expensive organic meat. Alternatively organic meat farmers do not do as well especially since there is no substantial evidence to support HGPs being harmful in anyway.

It is the economic benefits that stimulate this process in the meat industry as the benefit far outweigh the cost. C) Presenting opposing opinions between US and EU Ban Reasons For- As New Zealand is a small country we follow the practices of other countries in the meat industry and comply with their standards to be able to export our own meat. The use of Hormones is approved in beef production in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Mexico and Chile. This practice is supported by these countries because there is no evidence that hormones implants have any physiological effects on humans and are safety approved by The FDA.

Furthermore the profit and economic benefits of the process are extremely beneficial to the meat industry. There has been for many years a long-standing dispute between the US and the EU as the European Union has banned all use of HGPs. The EU opposes all use of any hormones being added to meat. After an out break of BSE commonly known as Mad Cow Disease many Europeans began to distrust the meat industry. Although this had nothing to do with hormones, European beef produces are now fearful of using any foreign process that may cause concern from consumers over the use biotechnology.

They are also concerned over the competition of other meat imports from other countries. The EU banned is known as the precautionary principle, which supports taking protective action before there is complete scientific proof. The validity of the ban has been questioned, as there are no scientific reasons to support the need for a ban. But the EU is admit for keeping it for the reasons of consumer worries, animal welfare, the quality of the meat, the effects of hormones on the EU’s milk and beef sectors and the economical threat of imported meat.

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