What’s the Beef? M&Ms and Hormones

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.

Horomone Levels

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.”

Click here to listen to Joan Ruskamp explain more >>

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.

20 responses to “What’s the Beef? M&Ms and Hormones

  1. I love this visual. Can you tell me where the data for this comparison came from? I coordinate an educational weeklong immersion course in Kansas to train school foodservice workers about where our food comes from, and the steps taken to make it safe. I would love to replicate this information, but I have to be able to back it up with appropriate scientific data. Any help you can offer would be fabulous.


  2. I have never bombed a blog post before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. I would like to encourage your readers to support LB 551 in the Nebraska legislature. Passage would enable more Nebraska farmers and ranchers to open up their operations to visitors – giving them the opportunity to educate consumers on issues just like this! I’ve posted the details on my blog: http://www.outbacknebraska.com/2014/02/want-to-experience-more-of-nebraska.html Thanks for helping to spread the word.

  3. Thank you for this so much! And thank you for the links above. It is so hard to reeducate my friends (and family) without the proper sources and visuals!

  4. Excellent visual display. I really appreciate this as I am doing several things on agricultural education. Thanks again!

  5. Pingback: A Visual To Add To Your Arsenal About Hormones & Beef | Land & Livestock International, Inc.

  6. I appreciate the value of this educational very much. As someone with a degree and a keen interest in ag and food production, PLUS an entirely urban family who believe every myth out there, I have often felt alienated and at a loss to provide the real facts. Things like this M&Ms comparison will help people to THINK more about the many issues involved in the production of their food. I want to encourage everyone to pass it on. Thank you.

  7. Interesting observations…always two sides to an issue…not qualified to comment yes/no. Clever presention with the M&M’s.

  8. This is a fantastic article and kudos for the use of M&Ms to explain to consumers the real safety of what they are eating. With all the negative press, it is difficult for consumers to know what to believe and what not to believe. This article is so important.

  9. Pingback: “Got Milk? Throw it Away:” NO THANK YOU! But I’ll Gladly Throw Away your Infographic | Mollsymoo

  10. Great idea. Can I suggest that you create one jar for beef that has received growth hormone and one that has not. From readimg your references I found that the difference is rediculously small.

  11. dont eat the M&M’s, they are garbage. The beef tastes better and satisifies longer! Also pound for pound the beef is cheaper!

  12. Pingback: Gro Master, Inc. | Everyday conversations

  13. Pingback: The Peterson Farm Bros’ Beef With Chipotle (Part 3): The Definition of a Humanely Raised Animal | The Peterson Farm Blog

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