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Hormones, Antibiotics, Livestock & Food

December 27, 2011

We have addressed hormone free rabbit and chicken, ethics and honesty and ag diversity with food choices before, but it remains the most criticized among consumers who misunderstand food labels.Some call for a total ban, which would also not be good.

When something is labeled “hormone free” there are two views – one is that’s what people want to hear, even if it’s questionable in truth (everything has hormones). Two is that it’s dishonest, even if it does sell products. If I say our peppers are cholesterol free that’s true. So are other peppers! So if you paid $1 more for our peppers would you be appreciative that they’re cholesterol free or feel taken advantage of for paying extra for something that is normal?

There are many concise pages I’ve found with some great answers to the questions of hormones. Many people – and media – don’t seem to understand the difference and use antibiotics and hormones interchangeably. The terminology we’ve learned to use to differentiate things doesn’t carry through in explanations or is seen as the same or splitting hairs.

One article addressing hormones, for example, points out some knowledge dates back to the 1930s but only relatively recently do we have the technology to use the information known long ago. “Hormones can have different chemistry. They can be steroids or proteins. Steroid hormones are active in the body when eaten. For example, birth control pills are steroid hormones and can be taken orally. In contrast, protein hormones are broken down in the stomach, and lose their ability to act in the body when eaten. Therefore, ordinarily, protein hormones need to be injected into the body to have an effect. For example, insulin is a protein hormone. Diabetic patients need to be injected with insulin for treatment. ”

The natural hormone treatments, for those who need it, don’t include poultry, or even implanted beef. Why is this? Because they don’t have hormone levels high enough to make a difference. Indeed, there are several foods that have much higher levels of estrogen than animal produced foods. It lists soybeans, flax, sunflowers ant others as higher – but even that seems a point of confusion for consumers. “Flaxseed ranks as the number one food source of phytoestrogens, according to Dietary Fiber Foods. Phytoestrogens are plant-like estrogen that can increase your body estrogen levels. These compounds are also linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer and heart disease while encouraging strong bones.” With phytoestrogens being plant like it’s obvious those wouldn’t be in livestock…but do increase body estrogen levels, which is said to be what happens by critics who say to swear off the meats.

For various reasons to boost the health of animals (and people) ionophores are used. Because of how these work, they are considered antibiotics, but are species specific in many cases. The ones fed to chickens don’t affect us, but do help the chickens fight coccidiosis, which we treat with medication if needed. This takes far more chemistry than most of us have to understand completely, and the black and white all or nothing stance of many doesn’t help.

If we give a simple answer it seems incomplete. If we give a complete answer not only will your eyes glaze over but likely ours will as well! Chemistry nerds will come up with chemicals and elements all around us because it’s what we’re made of and in our environment.

Is there a simple answer? I suppose there is, but there isn’t a simple understanding. That understanding can make a big difference. The bottom line – we seek to produce healthy food that has a minimum of artificial chemicals and medicines used in its production. Common sense food. Many agree with us, some want more guarantees, some want to do it themselves for the same results and some want the impossible – life without any chemical names. We breath oxygen, we’re made of cells, we rely on processes we don’t always understand completely for health – from how our bodies work to how our food is produced.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebecca permalink
    December 28, 2011 10:35 AM

    I for one am tired of being sold “gluten free” turkey and “cholesterol free” vegetables. Every time I see the word Natural on packaging I can’t help but chuckle and think arsenic is “natural.”

    • December 28, 2011 10:58 AM

      That’s my thought Rebecca! So is salmonella and e.coli but most don’t want to have them for dinner! Common sense doesn’t seem so much anymore.


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