Studies are published every day detailing research that shows how damaging pesticides, hormones and antibiotics are when they are sprayed on our foods, injected into our food animals, or sprayed on the foods that these animals eat. One of the biggest problems has been artificial growth hormones that are given to cows. But consumers have stood up for what they know is right and changes have been coming quickly.
The Financial Reasons Why Hormones are Used Artificial growth hormones are used to make more money. It is as simple as that. By injecting dairy cows with this hormone milk production can be increased by about 10%. That means that if a farmer can get $1,000 worth of milk out of its cows in a week without the hormone the farmer can get $1,100 worth of milk out of those same cows using the hormone. For a 10% bump in income, not counting the money they have to spend to buy the hormone, some dairy farmers and corporations are willing to inject a man-made synthetic hormone into our milk supply. They also use it in meat cattle to encourage the cattle to build more muscle and develop more quickly. How do they create this artificial and dangerous hormone? Read on.
The Dirty Secret behind Artificial Growth Hormones The two most common artificial growth hormones that are used to treat cows today are bovine somatotropin (bST) and recombant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Both of these hormones are artificially created synthetics meant to augment the small amount of natural hormone that a cow’s body make’s on its own. In the 1990s scientists learned how to replicate this otherwise naturally occurring hormone so that it could be injected into cows to increase milk production. The process involves taking the natural hormone from a dead cow, and then injecting it into an E. coli bacteria. The E. coli works to multiply the growth hormone, creating more and more of it by reproducing its DNA. Then, the E. coli is removed leaving just the growth hormone. This hormone is then injected into cows.
The Dangers to the Animals As if the simple idea of using E. coli bacteria to breed something that is then injected into our food animals is not simply disgusting enough, there are actual dangers to both the animals the growth hormone is injected into and the humans who consume their products. Proponents of growth hormones argue that any residual hormone that makes its way into milk or meat is either dead or occurs at such low levels that it will not hurt humans. However, studies have found that these hormones can cause a variety of ailments in the cows that are injected, including bacterial infections. We would not want our children to eat sick fish, so why would we want them to drink from sick cows?
The Dangers to the Consumers While proponents of the hormone say that the milk and meat is safe, studies have shown that some cancers seem to be associated with drinking milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones. In fact, the United States is the only developed country in the world that allows milk and meat that is meant for human consumption to be treated with artificial growth hormone: it is illegal in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and throughout Europe. Due to consumer demand for hormone free milk, many stores today have stopped carrying milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone. Kroger, Safeway and Publix all carry only hormone free milk and Wal-mart offers a hormone free variety. Even coffee great Starbucks and ice cream gurus Ben and Jerry’s have made the move to hormone free milk.
Moving Forward to a Safer Food Chain While the idea of eating or drinking from animals injected with artificial growth hormone is scary, the good news is that in this area consumers have made an impact. People demanded hormone free milk and big businesses have answered the call. This is a great example of how consumer awareness and vocalizations can make a real difference.