Beef without added hormones is all the rage these days.

It's supposed to be healthier, at least that's what A&W and other restaurants keep saying.

But the Canadian Cattlemen's Association argues that livestock that are given growth implant hormones are safe — and benefit the environment.

The group's Issues Manager, Tom Lynch-Staunton, explained how that works Thursday on the Calgary Eyeopener.  

Here is an edited version of part of his interview with CBC Radio host David Gray:


David: What do you make of all the marketing out there from restaurants that say their beef is raised without hormones?

Tom: Growth hormone implants are used quite widely in the beef industry. They're mainly to used for feed efficiency. So, essentially, allowing the animal to convert feed that much better.

So what it results in is it's a very good environmental story. So we're able to reduce our environmental impact by using these products.

We're really trying to reduce our environmental impact [and] this is a technology that allows us to do that.

Tom Lynch-Staunton

Tom Lynch-Staunton is the Issues Manager for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. (Submitted by Tom Lynch-Staunton)

David: Is it mostly estrogen?

Tom: The hormones used are estrogen, progesterone or testosterone, depending on the animal.

Converting to fat is not very efficient, and you're using a lot more feed. So if you can convert that into muscle, that will result in feed efficiency.

We're able to use less feed and water when we use something like a growth hormone implant. The other thing I want to mention is they're completely safe. All food have hormones in it.

David: Give me some comparisons with other foods.

Tom: All foods have hormones or hormone-like compounds in them. So plants actually have phytoestrogens, which do the same thing as an estrogen within your own body.

So for example, a serving of steak will have negligible amounts naturally, about one nanogram — which is a billionth of a gram — of estrogen in it. An animal that's been given an implant — may go up half a nanogram.

Cabbage, quite high in phytoestrogens, I can't remember the exact number but in the thousands of nanograms. But what you have to know is you don't have to worry about those either.

Ultimately, we want to make people feel comfortable with whatever beef product they decide to eat — whether it's with or without added growth hormones. And we want to make sure that people have the right information.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener