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I've been trying to research whether artificial hormones fed to beef cattle are harmful to the consumer, and just can't seem to find any source that I can rely on. There are a lot of people out there with "better safe than sorry" attitudes (which isn't good enough for me...I'd really like something better to go on). There are some that say it absolutely is bad for you and should be avoided like the plague (including an aquaintance that is an M.D.), others, including the FDA, say the likelihood of it being harmful is incredibly small (e.g. they say the amount of hormone in the beef is 200 times less than that in cabbage, etc).

I think part of the question is whether the "artificialness" of the hormone is likely to be harmful -- given that the actual quantity of estrogen is so tiny compared to other things like cabbage and potatoes, and not much more than the quantity in "all natural" beef.

I've researched this to the best of my ability, but am finding that I just don't know who to trust.

So which is it? Should I spend far more for, say, "no artificial hormone added" ground beef just to avoid the hormones? It's not like ground beef is great for you anyway, but I'd like to know if the artificial hormones issue itself is something to worry about.

  • My guess here would be it's probably not something to worry about. Here's one reasoning: Organic Food – cregox Apr 28 '11 at 2:42
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    Yeah, but is Penn and Tellers BS show really reliable? (haha, just kidding... skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/2582/… :) ) – rob Apr 28 '11 at 2:47
  • The word "artificial", in food processing speak, might not mean what you think it does. I don't have a reference, but I'd wager that similar games are being played with the words "artificial", "hormone", "all", and "natural" in your question. – Ezra Apr 28 '11 at 6:42
  • Another thing that might be worth a consideration is that there could be other reasons to worry about added hormones, like some residual doses leaking into the environment. (If that happens and matters, indeed. A nice topic for another question.) – zoul Apr 28 '11 at 8:38
  • Should you spend more? Depends if you care about animal health. – gerrit Jul 23 '15 at 17:48
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Short answer, no there is no direct proof of negative effects. Long answer follows.

Well, strictly speaking BGH or bovine growth hormone is definitely a bad thing, but not in the way that most people mean. Bovine growth hormone, known commercially as Posilac, increases the yield of dairy cows, but comes at the price of higher infection rates and pus content in milk. To combat the infections dairy farmers are forced to put more antibiotics into the cows to keep them healthy. Some of this filters in through the milk, which in turn can lead to resistant bacteria, which is a definite health concern for humans. However, the FDA has found no significant difference between rBGH and non-rBGH milk, Canada banned it's use for it's detrimental affects on animals, but also said that humans have no noticeable detrimental effects from rBGH milk.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK15180/#A24152

http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm130321.htm

http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/antibiotics/

For beef cattle the issue remains the same the FDA has found no link to any sort of health issues related to using either natural or artificial hormones. One study found that women who ate beef with the growth hormone produced sons with lower sperm counts, however none of the men in the study were unable to conceive normally. The EU health concerns leading to their ban of any natural or synthetic hormones is related to the improper administration of the hormones in doses above the approved safety standards by EU member states and the US was not found to be in violation of any approved levels considered safe for human consumption.

  • Interesting, although I'm looking for information on beef cows (and the beef itself) not dairy cows. – rob Apr 29 '11 at 6:25

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