This fall as I was making one of my frequent trips through the security check point at the Denver International Airport, I was waiting in line to have my boarding pass inspected behind a young man who was about 6’ 9” tall. The officer doing the inspecting commented that he would probably be the tallest man to pass through security that day, so being the person that I am I made a comment to the effect of “from the tallest guy to the shortest.” (Side note: I’m dressed in what is normal attire for me, cowboy hat, boots and starched jeans.) To which the officer replied that I would be what is considered normal height before they started putting all those hormones in beef.
So, I was faced with a choice. Do I inform him that the use of hormone implants started in the 1970s which would be more his generation? Do I tell him that 4 ounces of beef from an implanted steer contains 1.6 nanograms (ng.) of estrogen while his soy latte has 30,000 ng. of estrogen? Or do I hand him a fact sheet from Feedstuffs Foodlink on antibiotics and hormones? No, I just controlled my temper and walked on through security because of my distaste for body cavity searches.
This is a problem I run into often in my travels. “Civilians” have little understanding of agriculture and most have little understanding of biology, but they have strong opinons about their food. The simple fact that hormones like estrogen and testosterone are naturally occurring in all mammals, in both sexes and in many other food stuffs seems to escape them.
For my part, I blame professional athletes for their use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and the media for misinformation about the industry. I can understand their banning in sports and the public’s disgust that they might be eating a steer that would look like Barry Bonds or Jose Canseco. But the fact is that the use of growth promotants in the beef industry is much different than PEDs in sports. In the industry, implants and protocols are subjected to a set of rigorous tests and standards by the FDA and beef is inspected by the USDA at every juncture to assure safety. A steer might be implanted for 100-200 days. In sports, performance enhancing drugs are not FDA approved, used at high levels and used over a period of years.
I hope that you clicked the link above and got to read the facts about hormones and antibiotics. Feedstuffs Foodlink provides a wealth of information that can be used in these conversations. Also as you explain that the hormones and antibiotics in beef production are FDA approved, tested and most importantly metabolized before slaughter or give them the information about the amount of estrogen in raw peas (2700 ng/4 ounces) or soy oil (168,000 ng/3 ounces). Please remember that they have probably been convinced that these things are healthier than beef and have consumed them in large quantities, making them slightly hormonally imbalanced. So have patience, it’s not their fault. It’s just their time of the month all the time.