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The use of growth-inducing drugs in cattle increases in the face of drought

May 29, 2013

The drought affecting the Great Plains and West has had an unexpected effect on cattle herds located in those regions:  higher use of the growth-inducing drugs known as “beta-agonists.”  Cattle farmers are increasing their use of these additives to bulk up their animals in the face of high corn costs.  Beta-agonists enable farmers to grow larger cattle while feeding them less food, thus allowing farmers to decrease the costs of conventional, feed-dependent cattle production.

Many foreign markets and U.S. consumer groups have voiced concern over the increased use of beta-agonists.  In February, for instance, Russia banned the import of beef raised with growth additives, joining China and the European Union.  Additionally, the Center for Food Safety and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to conduct comprehensive studies on long-term effects on human consumption and animal health.

Currently, an estimated 70 to 75 percent of U.S. beef cattle are fed such growth promoters, making beta-agonists extremely common in conventional beef sold in grocery stores.  One sure way to avoid eating beef with growth-inducing drug additives is to choose USDA certified organic beef!

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