2.1 Hormones in Beef

What do hormone implants do?

Hormone implants elevate an animal’s natural hormone levels. This allows for more efficient feed use by converting more of the feed into lean muscle growth and away from fat accumulation. By doing so the growth rate increases and fewer resources, such as feed, are needed to finish the animal. The use of hormone implants have aided the beef industry in its goal to produce a quality protein product while using fewer resources such as land, feed, water and fuel, while producing less manure and greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately this leads to a smaller environmental footprint for the industry.

BCRC Blog Post: Growth Promotants

Alberta Beef Producers’ Worried About Hormones? brochure

And corresponding resources

What do hormone implants do?


How are hormones administered

Hormone implants are slightly larger than the size of a Tic-Tac and placed under the skin of the animal’s ear. The implant is a slow release pellet that is administered one to three times in an animal’s lifetime.

Alberta Agriculture Resource: Growth Implants for Beef Cattle

How are hormones administered


Is the meat I purchase in the grocery store high in hormones because of implants?

When comparing meat from implanted and non implanted animals, there is a difference in estrogen levels. A 75g serving of beef from an animal that was not administered a hormone implant contains 1.1ng of estrogen as compared to 1.9ng in the same serving size from an implanted animal. However, when compared to other foods these amounts are minimal. These numbers are insignificant when one takes into consideration that the average man naturally produces 136,000 ng of estrogen per day and the average female approximately 480,000ng. Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the United Nations have deemed the use of hormone implants to be a safe practice that can be continued without harm to human health. There is no such thing as hormone free beef as beef has naturally occurring hormones.

The hormone implant is administered in the back of the ear of the animal which is not used for human consumption so the pellet itself will not enter the food chain.

Alberta Beef Producers’ ‘Worried About Hormones?’ brochure complete with estrogen levels in different foods.

Is the meat I purchase in the grocery store high in hormones because of implants?


Are growth promotant hormones a new product?

Growth promotant hormones have been used by beef producers for many years and have undergone numerous studies across the globe. In fact beef producers began using them in the mid 1950s.

Alberta Agriculture Resource: Growth Implants for Beef Cattle

Growth promoting hormones and implants have been used in beef production since the mid 1950’s. It was later found to be more convenient and effective as a pellet implanted between the skin and the cartilage of the ear. The implant released a small amount of the artificial hormone daily over a period of 60 to 120 days.

By the mid 1960’s – and into the 1970’s – new natural hormone products were introduced. Other products, which stimulated the animal to raise its own level of hormone production, were also registered. Before they could be registered for use all of these products were rigorously tested and proven not to cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive failure or other ill effects to both livestock and consumers.

Are growth promotant hormones a new product?


Are hormones in meat linked to early puberty in children?

Whether or not an animal has received an implant, beef has very low levels of estrogen. Researchers believe that increased levels of body fat in children is likely to be one of the major causes of early puberty, with no confirmed research linking beef to early puberty. Our diets have drastically changed in the last several decades and have a higher plane of nutrition. Like other living organisms, when more energy and nutrition are in a diet, the rate growth and development increase.

Are hormones in meat linked to early puberty in children?


Do hormone implants administered to cattle impact human health?

“Hormonal substances” is a term used to describe sex hormones given to cattle. Many experts and agencies, including Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, have reviewed the safety of hormone use. At present, there is no evidence linking the use of hormonal substances in cattle to health risk in humans.

Levels of hormones found in foods vary tremendously depending on the food. Although hormones are naturally present in all animals, exposure from consumption of beef is minimal compared to other sources. The greatest level of hormones is from natural daily human production and from use of oral contraceptives.

In fact, very little of the hormones present in food are absorbed by the body. Approximately 90per cent of the hormones in beef are broken down by the enzymes in the human digestive tract and never make it to the blood stream.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency makes sure that beef producers follow the Food and Drug Act and Regulations. They do this by inspecting the meat and testing it for residues. In Canada, the level of synthetic hormones that can be left in beef is zero. A review of the data from this testing program shows a near perfect record, that is, no hormonal residues in the beef.  This is accomplished by having beef producers adhere to strict withdrawal times of additives administered to their cattle.

If consumers want to consume beef that has not been given any hormonal substances, they have the choice of purchasing certified organic beef. Consumers can be assured that all Canadian beef is a safe and nutritious choice for healthy eating.

BCRC Blog Post: Q & A on Conventional Beef Production

Do hormone implants administered to cattle impact human health?