What does it really mean to have Antibiotic and Hormone-Free Protein?

Sitting across from your Tinder date at a new Roncesvalles bistro you both analyze the scrumptious offerings of their lunch menu trying to decide between Sirloin or Flat Iron Steak when you can’t help but over-hear a Millennial grilling the server with more questions than you asked your date before meeting them. Ten years ago an average guest wouldn’t be inquiring if the Sirloin is, “not injected with antibiotics or raised with hormones, locally sourced from an organic ranch and fed GMO-free feed?” Wow. You almost expect the savvy server to reach into his apron and produce a rap sheet on said cow’s process verified program including the kill-date which he will assure them was indeed stress-free for the cow in an environmentally friendly abattoir. Is the overly anxious consumer who wants that beef the way they want their Tinder date, with a clean bill of health and free from Steroids asking too much?

What difference would it make if your Flat Iron Steak was Antibiotic and Hormone-Free anyway?

Antibiotics

If it is truly “raised without antibiotics” the animal wasn’t given antibiotics at any point in its life – not in its food, water or through injections. In the early stages of a calf’s life they receive immunization and vaccinations in order to ensure proper health. There is a concern that antibiotics used in animals may contribute to the epidemic of antibiotic resistance in humans. The center for disease control reports there is strong evidence that antibiotic use in food animals can lead to
resistant infections in humans because antibiotic resistant bacteria can grow in said treated animals, and this bacteria can be passed along to humans and cause infection. The USDA doesn’t want you to panic as I quote directly from their site: “Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in cattle. A “withdrawal” period is requested by the time antibiotics are administered until its legal to slaughter the animal. This is so residues can exit the animals system. FSIS randomly samples cattle at slaughter to test for residues. Data from this monitoring plan have shown a very low percentage of residue violations.

Hormones

The only way that the “hormone – free” stamp is authentic is when the animal (cow, pig, lamb, chicken ect…) received no added hormones during its life – although no animal can be truly ‘hormone free’ as all living creatures produce them naturally. So why use synthetic growth and steroidal hormone drugs? Zeranol and Trenbolone Acetate (two synthetic hormones) may be used as an inside a small pellet implant on the animals ear and are time released to increase the animals growth rate and the efficiency in converting the feed they eat into more meat on their bones. In beef it is completely legal to administer hormones to the cattle and are approved for specific classes of animals only. Studies have suggested that any artificial growth hormones in meat happen in such a minimal dose to have any measurable impact on human health after consumption. FDA also establishes the acceptable safe limits for hormones in meat. A safe level for human consumption is a level of hormone drug or antibiotic drug in the meat that would be expected to have no harmful effect in humans based on extensive scientific study and review. Beef labeled “organic” is not administered pellet implants and must adhere to the USDA guidelines for organic beef production.