The Truth About Antibiotics and Growth Hormones in American Meat

When you see premium meats at the grocery store, that are labeled ‘hormone free’ they come with a price that is higher than other meats in the same category.  Naturally, families want to get the best value and stretch their grocery budget by finding bargains and saving money at the grocery store.  But not many people really understand the difference, and why hormone free meat is such an important health issue and consideration.

Understanding the food that you choose for yourself and your family, and the price sensitivity that we all feel when we shop for our food matters.  But would you think that a meat product you purchase that is at discount, would be a better deal, if it presented possible negative health consequences when you consume them?

The more informed you become about the American food chain, and how manufactures and producers profit by using methods that do not produce the healthiest and most nutritious meat, the better equipped you are to make better choices at the grocery store.  In this article, we’d like to share some information and explain why Free Graze has innovated hormone and antibiotic free premium burgers, which we know offer the best flavor, and most nutrition for your grocery budget.

Grass-Fed Versus Factory Farming Methods

To explain why hormone, use in meat production is a bad thing, we have to go all the way back to the farm and take a look at how your beef, turkey or pork is produced.  The traditional method of raising beef for instance, allows cattle to graze freely in the pasture.  They have fresh air, ample room to move naturally, and enjoy a balanced diet of grass that is full of important nutrients.

Healthy cattle produce healthy beef.  It’s really that simple.  And when you see grass-fed beef in the grocery store, you know that the traditional agricultural methods have been used to produce that beef.  Not only is it more environmentally friendly and humane for the cattle, but the amount of nutrients per serving in grass-fed beef is far higher than meat produced by other factory farming methods.

Why did the agricultural sector change from those wholesome traditional methods of raising beef and allowing free grazing, versus what we see today in high-density beef production operations? Profit. You see, when you have a herd of cattle that are open range and grazing, it takes a lot more time and effort to protect them, care for them, and move them into different pastures as they grow.  But this provides cattle the time they need to mature naturally, in a low-stress ranch environment.

High-Density Cattle Production: Where the Antibiotics and Hormones Are Used

In a feedlot production system, cattle may be allowed outside, but many of them spend their time crowded in dense paddocks, literally walking through mud and waste.  In nature, animals are not meant to be overcrowded in this manner, and as a result, cattle raised this way tend to have higher rates of health problems.  You would too, if you spent all day stuck in a small field and standing in muck that is loaded with e-coli and other bacteria.

Because illness is such a problem for these high-density cattle producers, they pre-emptively dose their cattle (whether they need it or not) with antibiotics.  The medical community and the WHO (World Health Organization) have already sounded the alarm about the cumulative health risk factors of consuming meat that is high in antibiotics. 

You see, if we spend our money on meat that has been overdosed with antibiotics, regardless of the safety assurances that inspection agencies provide, there is a small amount of those industrial use antibiotics that work their way through the food chain, and into our bodies.   One of the leading suspected causes of the growing problem with antibiotic resistance worldwide, is the overuse of antibiotics in meat production.

Where do hormones factor in high-density beef production?  The faster a beef producer using this type of model can raise cattle to the age of processing, the better.  They make more money, and they spend less in feed and veterinary costs.  The growth hormones that are used in meat are meant to both increase the size of the cattle (so that there is more pound yield) and helps to mature them quickly so that they can be sold or processed for food products.

How Hormones Are Used in Beef and Dairy Production

Growth hormones like the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), is a synthetic cow hormone that is used in dairy farm operations, to increase milk production.   It is such a powerful chemical, that rBGH treated cows can double or even triple their milk production.  But some studies have shown that the use of hormones can also stimulate insulin-like growth factor (IGF), and this is where the problem starts.

The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) can mimic the effects of human growth hormones, when ingested in large amounts.  Taking dairy cattle as an example again, rBGH treated cows can contain up to 10x’s more IGF than non-hormone treated cattle.  In beef cattle, calves that receive hormone treatments are between 10% to 20% larger in body volume (in a shorter period of time) than untreated calves.  This also reduces the cost of feeding the cattle by as much as 10%.

In beef cattle, growth hormones are implanted using a pellet gun under the soft skin behind the ear of the cow.  The hormones are released gradually over time into the blood stream, to stimulate growth and volume.   The FDA and other food safety inspection authorities have claimed that since the ear of cattle are discarded at the time of processing, the hormones cannot be ingested by humans when they consume beef.

But the truth is, there has been very little research into the long-term effects of consuming hormone treated meat.  If the hormones are implanted in the ear, but distributed throughout the bloodstream of cattle, how can researchers claim there is no potential hormone residue in the meat we buy and consume?  If the implant is powerful enough to increase body weight and size in cattle, wouldn’t it make sense that the hormone is evenly distributed throughout every area, including the meat that is packaged and sold to consumers?

It doesn’t quite make sense does it? And given the fact that there are few long-term studies on the health impacts of hormones or antibiotics consumed in meat, it’s hard to believe that there are not significant health consequences we may not be aware of.

What you buy in the grocery store is important, but learning where it comes from, and how it was produced matters greatly, when you want to make healthier dietary choices.  Free Graze burgers are grass-fed, contain no artificial preservatives, and are raised by hand-picked cattle ranchers we have known for decades.  Ranchers that embrace the traditional, and healthiest methods of producing quality, nutritious beef.  That matters to us.  And we know it matters to our customers too.