Thursday, November 17, 2011

growth-promoting implants

Do I even need to explain why this is wrong?

A bulletin from the Penn State Ag Extension recommends "growth-promoting implants," complete with the preceding picture, as an answer to help family cattle farms make more money from their beef. I had to get over my initial sickening just to read their argument in favor of this procedure. It was, of course, purely economic -- implants cost just $2.74 and result in an average difference in feedlot weight gain of 56 lbs! This is an opportunity to earn more than $45 extra on every steer sent to slaughter! The potential impacts on the poor young animal's development, other than increased carcass weight, are not even mentioned. Animal welfare aside, the effect on young people of eating beef from cattle raised with these implants hasn't even been studied, as near as I can tell. Even though a Texas Tech University study found that the implants increase the levels of estrogen in the treated animals, and multiple studies have shown that excess estrogens can cause early sexual development and other problems in growing children -- I'm sure, as industry would like you to believe, that it's perfectly safe. Aren't you convinced?

If you buy beef from the grocery store in the United States, chances are good that you're consuming this stuff, since labeling isn't required. As a matter of fact, the USDA and the FDA are so convinced that it's safe, our government took the EU to the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Body to argue that their ban on treated beef imports was an "unfair trade barrier." The EU argued that banning it is a basic question of food safety, and therefore permitted under trade rules. Funny how the same scientific data can be interpreted so differently on opposite sides of the pond.

What boggles my mind about the Ag Extension bulletin is that it's brought up as a solution to chronically low commodity beef prices. Farmers raising beef in Pennsylvania can expect to receive around $1.60/lb for their whole year's effort in a cow/calf operation. But a quick survey of the information available at shows that organic, grass-fed beef is selling direct to Pennsylvania consumers for between $6 and $10/lb. Now, I do realize that this consumer price doesn't take into account the increased cost of fencing, land, hay, and such when you're finishing your own cattle on pasture rather than selling them to a feedlot. But I would certainly think that if you knew you could get almost ten times the price selling grass-fed beef direct to the consumer, you wouldn't be tempted to consider freakish things like implanting hormones beneath the skin of your calves. Wouldn't you?


  1. Ewwwww.....
    So glad we've got a freezer full of grass fed beef from a local farmer.

  2. Just fabulous! What will they think of next? I saw recently that Joel Salatin was profiled in Time magazine, promoting his new book called 'Folks, This Ain't Normal'. Maybe that will help enlighten more people.

    Pretty likely that you and your readers put lots of care and effort into finding good sources for your food, but when will the pendulum swing back towards sanity in our food supply?

    It strikes me as being closely related to the same power and profiteering issues that the Occupy movement is railing against. Too bad they've not included this in the issue list.

  3. This stuff drives me absolutely crazy! Have we become so conditioned as a society that we (the collective we) really don't see anything wrong with this?! I recently posted about arsenic in chicken! People should be rioting in the streets!

  4. Wow! It is amazing what (we) will do for cheap food! Sickening, to say the least. I'm so glad we found two grass fed beef growers locally.

    Mars, eh? We're not too far from there, and frequent the Agway for our farm supplies. You're a long way from home then, hm? I, too am enjoying perusing your blog! =)

  5. absolutely sickening. glad to find your blog, i love it and have similar daydreams of organic farms. keep it up :)