Okay. Hormones are used in some beef farming. But just how much hormone is used? And how does that compare to the amount of hormone that cattle (and people, for that matter) already have?
Posted in Animals, Beef cattle, Food Safety
Tagged beef, bread, cattle, cow, egg, estrogen, food, heifer, hormone, steer, tofu
In the last post, we learned about what hormones are and why they are so important for everybody’s every day life. So if hormones are a necessary part of life, why have they gotten so much attention in our food system?
Hormones are used pretty widely in beef and dairy farming. In beef they are used to help animals grow faster. In dairy they are used to help the cows make more milk. We’ll talk about how hormones are used in beef today, and we’ll get into the dairy part later on.
Remember last time that we talked about the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone? These are the types of hormones that are used in beef farming. The hormones can be either natural hormones (estradiol, testosterone, or progesterone), synthetic hormones (man-made, but exactly like the naturally-occurring hormone; trenbolone acetate or melengestrol acetate), or plant hormones (zeranol). Different brands will have different amounts and types of hormones. Regardless of the source, the hormones have the same structure and are seen as the same thing by the body.
In our last post, we talked about a cow-calf farm. The goal on a cow-calf farm is to have a new crop of calves every year, and to sell the calves sometime around 4-8 months old. Once the calves are sold, they typically go to a feedlot.
The goal at a feedlot is to, well, feed the calves a lot. We want to get the calves to grow to around 1000 pounds to be ready to sell for beef. (Then they are called “finished” cattle.) On a grain-fed farm, this will usually be around the time the cattle are 18 months old.
This steer is just about finished. I took this photo about 6 weeks ago, and he has probably been sold already.
There’s no denying it, there are two main goals of having a herd of beef cattle. The first is to have new calves every year to sell or keep to grow the size of the herd. The second is to raise animals to the right size so they can be sold for their meat. Let’s talk about the life stages these animals go through before they get to your grocery store.
Pregnant cows. We’ve already talked about these ladies a bit. They’re large and in charge. They eat and drink a lot. Their number one job is to have a healthy baby around 9 months after they get pregnant (just like people).