I recently had the pleasure of meeting up with Joan Ruskamp. Joan and her family farm and feed cattle near Dodge, Nebraska. Joan also is a Common Ground volunteer spending time talking with consumers about agriculture issues and their food concerns.
One of the concerns she hears from consumers is that their meat is full of hormones. While all food contains hormones of some type, she found that explaining the differing levels using scientific terms, like nanograms, only caused greater confusion. So, Joan came up with a great visual aid that any American can relate to – M&Ms.
As you can see in the photo, Joan carefully measured each pint jar of M&M’s so they represent the amount of nanograms found in different kinds of food and in the human body naturally in comparison to the amount found in beef.
In the pint jar furthest to the right, is a sixth of an M&M. This sliver of an M&M represents the amount of hormones found in a 3 oz serving of beef which have received an implant.
In the two middle pint jars, are the amount of hormones found in 3 oz serving of potatoes with about 20 M&Ms and a jar showing the hormones in peas containing a few more M&Ms.
The pint jar on the left end, which is full of M&Ms, showcases the amount found in a 3 oz serving of cabbage.
“When consumers compare the amount of hormones in nanograms and see that beef contains a very small portion – it becomes a non-issue for them,” said Ruskamp. “Then when they learn that in a man or women’s body normally there are 13 pints of M&Ms worth of hormones naturally in their body. And in a woman who is able to have children, her body naturally contains 178 pints of M&Ms or about 23 gallons worth…
…It becomes an issue that they can now relate to and understand the quantity to see how insignificant the amount in beef is, and they accept that fact that hormones are naturally occurring, thus not an issue for me and how I purchase my meat.”
Get answers to some of your hormone questions here from Common Ground –
Should I be concerned about hormones in meat?
- Agricultural hormone use has been found safe by scientists all over the world. Residue levels of hormones in food have been demonstrated to be safe and well below any level that would have a known effect in humans, according to FDA.
- The Center for Veterinary Medicine has confirmed that 1 pound of farmed beef from cattle given a common hormone, estradiol, contains 15,000 times less estradiol than the estrogen produced daily by the average man and 9 million times less than that produced by a pregnant woman.
Why are hormones given to livestock?
- Growth hormones are sometimes used in meat and dairy production to safely increase milk output per cow and produce leaner meat products more efficiently.
- Bovine somatotropin (BST) serves as a protein hormone that is produced naturally by cows to help them make milk. A minority of dairy farmers, about 15 percent of farms, use small amounts of synthetic BST to increase the milk production of their cows. The American Medical Association has said BST does not harm cows or alter the nutritional value of the milk.
-– Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter raised up on a cow/calf and grain farm.