Hormones

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When are hormones used on farms?

You may not realize it, but all living things contain hormones. Hormones are necessary for the growth of plants and animals. Some farmers choose to give supplemental hormones, which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, to their beef and dairy cattle. For those of us who choose to use hormones, it reduces our carbon footprint, because less feed is needed and less waste is produced to raise cattle or produce milk. Hormones are not allowed in raising pigs or poultry.

Perspectives

  • Christina Lee
    Christina Lee

    LaGrange Park, IL

    As a teacher, I want to share what I see with my students.

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    About Me

    I'm a mother of three children, ages 4, 11 and 12, with a husband and dog rounding out our busy family. I'm also a full-time computer and P.E. teacher, a job that I've loved for 14 years!

    Why I'm a Field Mom

    I question whether or not our society is overreacting to the possible dangers of pesticides, so I look forward to asking farmers their opinions. I want to see things firsthand and share them with my family and students.

    From a Mom

    Did you know that Hog producers never give hormones to their hogs, EVER! So why does that packaged pork you just picked up today at the grocery store say NO Hormones Added? To clarify Steve Ward and other Hog Farms like his just are the wean-to-finish farms and have nothing to do with the label you see in the grocery store. The final destination (or grocery store) of each of Steve Ward's hogs is unknown to him. The big companies who sell the finished product may add that "No Hormones Added" label. According to the Ward family this is just a marketing scheme to make the buyer believe they are getting a healthier piece of pork for their family.

  • Amy Hansmann
    Amy Hansmann

    River Forest, IL

    I'm an active, educated, stay-at-home mom of two.

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    About me

    I'm an active, educated, stay-at-home mom who takes an interest in providing healthy food to my family. I'm a regular volunteer at the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry.

    About my family

    Our family recently expanded with the addition of another son. We now have two boys, 4-year old Keith, and 8-month old Kyle. My whole family loves to sail, and we enjoy the summer season on the water.

    Why I'm a Field Mom

    I'm concerned about the use of chemicals in farming and how they may affect our health. As for animal products, I am concerned about overall treatment of the animals, drugs used and cleanliness. I am not happy with the increasing amount of processed foods available and look for healthier options. I cook at home most nights of the week, and I'm excited to see for myself what happens on Illinois farms.

    What I hope to see on the farms

    I am most interested in those that raise livestock. I hope to see the way they live, the care they receive and the life cycle on the farm. I am also interested in the science used to combat pests or ailments both with livestock and with crops.

    From a Mom

    I was relieved to get a little more information on the use of hormones in our meat and dairy.

    I think the idea of hormone use gets a bad reputation because honestly it makes you think that cows are being grown to unhealthy proportions, like steroid use in athletes. I learned that some cows are given hormones to improve their daily weight gain (or improve their milk production for Dairy Cows). This is important because it speeds the time to market, therefore reducing production costs and retail cost to the consumer. It also is worth mentioning that there is a related environmental impact of having the cows take longer to market; more grain to grow for feed and more waste to dispose of, in simplistic terms. There is a slight increase in the estrogen levels presented in the beef treated with hormones, but it appears to be such a small amount that to me it is almost insignificant. In treated beef the amount in a serving of beef is 1.9 nanograms. A nanogram is one billionth of a gram so this amount is very small. But what makes it even less significant to me is that untreated beef for the same size serving still has 1.3 nanograms. So without even comparing beef to a vegetable like cabbage that has naturally occurring estrogen, the amount in discussion is only .6 nanograms. Literally this takes me into math that has too many zeros for me really to understand! I think my concern over things being added to my food is probably better spent on preservatives, chemicals, or fats that I know are not good for me.

  • Amy Rossi
    Amy Rossi

    Naperville, IL

    I'm involved with my church, and I volunteer at school.

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    About me

    I have a degree in archaeology, I'm involved with my church, and I volunteer at school.

    About my family

    We have six children ranging from 15-years old to 2-years old. My family is into many sports:  hockey, baseball and basketball, etc. We enjoy movie nights on Fridays and barbeques on the weekends. Books are also big in our house.  Many of our kids are voracious readers.

    Why I'm a Field Mom

    I want to learn about farming life and the families who own and operate these farms – and teach my kids about the values we share. I find the whole idea of growing food or raising livestock to feed hundreds of people amazing. I don't think anyone who hasn't grown up on a farm actually has any idea of what goes on in their day-to-day lives – me included! It's easy to sit here in Naperville and go to the grocery store and not think about having to work for our food.

    What I hope to see on the farms

    I hope to visit a cattle or pig farm. I am most curious about the treatment of the animals. My view of animals is only of my pets that live indoors with my family. I don't know if I could separate my feelings for the animals enough to send them to market. It will be interesting to hear the farmer's take on it.

    From a Mom

    My family drinks about 6 gallons of milk a week, so seeing just where it comes from was insightful and interesting. The Drendels had their veterinarian on hand to answer the question about hormones in the milk. I believe he answered the question intelligently and honestly. I know, for myself, I believe that milk is milk. Whether grain fed, grass fed, organic, or not? My family will continue to do their part in consuming milk!

  • Betsie Estes
    Betsie Estes

    Elk Grove Village, IL

    I'm back in Illinois after spending eight years in Texas.

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    About me

    I was raised in the Chicago area, and I'm back after spending eight years in Texas. I'm constantly trying to find new ways to cook things that will be appealing to preschoolers!

    About my family

    We have two children, 4-year old daughter Sophie, and 3-year old son Daniel. We love to take bike rides, go fishing, travel, and enjoy everything this amazing area has to offer. My husband and I split the cooking duties. Some of our favorite meals are our weekend breakfasts – my biscuits and gravy are to die for!

    Why I'm a Field Mom

    I worry about the hormones and antibiotics in food and how those things will affect my children down the road. I also worry about the demise of the family farm and the livelihood of the people who work so hard to keep this country healthy, happy and well-fed. Family farms are such an important part of America's heritage, and they need to be revered and preserved. I think everyone should know how much work goes into getting food from the field to the table.

    How I plan my family's meals

    There's a lot more planning that comes with being a mom, and especially a working mom! Not only do I have to make sure I'm cooking food my kids will eat and still offering healthy options, I have to plan every single meal well in advance to make sure the preparation will fit into our busy lives.

    From a Mom

    As far as the hormones, we learned that the hormones given are naturally-occurring in the cows, and the amount is not nearly as much as I'd imagined. My kids were raised from infancy in west Texas, and we didn't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or anything of the sort nearby, so they were brought up on regular old milk – hormones and all. Since it wasn't an option for us I never gave it a second thought – until we moved to Chicago, and I was surrounded by people who buy fancy things like almond milk and organic, hormone-free milk (which, at $6 a gallon, is out of reach for us anyway). I'll be honest, that's something I've had a lot of guilt over since we moved, so I was glad to release some of that after hearing an expert opinion for myself.

  • Carrie Pollard
    Carrie Pollard

    Rockford, IL

    Po-Cop Dairy

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    From a Farmer

    All mammals (that includes you, me, as well as the cows and pigs) produce hormones in our bodies. It is part of how our bodies work. That means that things that come from those bodies will contain hormones. They are broken down by our body, just like other things we eat. Just remember to keep things in perspective, vegetables contain hormones too. So, whatever your fancy, you will always get a nutritious, good-for-you glass no matter what jug it is out of. The pick at our house is "Mixed Milk," a white skim and chocolate (1 or 2%) mix, served alongside pork tenderloin!

  • Emily Paster
    Emily Paster

    ,

    My passion is feeding my family and my friends and my goal is to help more people feel confident in the kitchen by sharing my tips and techniques.

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    From a Mom

    While at Lindale Holsteins, Dr. Gerloff explained to the Field Moms what rBGH (also known as rBST) actually is. It is a naturally occurring hormone that is present in higher levels in dairy cows that have recently given birth. When cows get further away from their last live birth, their milk production slows down. (Any human mom who has nursed can relate to that.) So dairy farmers would give these cows a shot of rBGH to simulate the levels of hormones that a new cow mom has as a way of increasing that cow's milk production. The FDA and many veterinarians believe that there is no difference in the milk of cows treated with rBGH versus those not treated with it.

  • Jennifer Weiss
    Jennifer Weiss

    Chicago, IL

    I grew up in Kentucky, and I would love to reconnect with my agricultural heritage.

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    About me

    I grew up in Kentucky, and I would love to reconnect with my agricultural heritage and really learn the "ins and outs" of how our food goes from raw materials to finished product at
    our stores.  

    About my family

    My husband and I have two sons, 3-year old Cameron, and 1-year old Michael. We play trains together, go to the park, and attend and serve in our church. Every evening, I usually make a meal from scratch, including meat, fresh vegetables and grains.

    Why I'm a Field Mom

    I have concerns about the misinformation out there, and whether there is any truth to claims about food additives, antibiotics/hormones, and the organic vs. ordinary debate. I'm interested in knowing where our food comes from, and I want to help set the record straight by listening to the facts straight from the farmers, instead of all the hearsay about how our food is grown, processed and prepared.

    What she hopes to see on the farms

    I am excited to see how the animals grow, how our food is grown, the different aspects of farm life, and learning about the common goals and values we share – as city folk and country folk – as we love and nurture our families.

    From a Mom

    The amount of phytoestrogen in a steer is way, way, millions of nanograms less than even a baked potato! Kinda throws the whole "hormones are horrible" argument in the face of the arguers.

  • Dale & Linda Drendel Family
    Dale & Linda Drendel Family

    Hampshire, IL

    We have a dairy farm and grow corn, wheat, soybeans, oats and alfalfa.

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    About our family

    Dale and Linda married in 1974, and began dairying at the present location. Linda has been a middle school/high school teacher for 25 years, and presently does calf chores, show barn chores, farm bookkeeping and has a part-time job off the farm.

    Their oldest daughter, Carrie, lives in Normal, Ill., with her husband, Ryan, and their daughter, Olivia.

    Dale and Linda’s son, Jeff, farms with them.  Their youngest daughter, Julie, is editor of the Illinois Holstein Herald.

    About our food

    Dale and Linda milk 150 registered Holstein dairy cows and have 130 heifers/calves. They also grow 300 acres of corn, 32 acres of wheat, 112 acres of beans, and 170 acres of oats/alfalfa (hay).

    About our farm

    Dale is a fifth generation farmer, and Linda is a seventh generation farmer.  Dale began farming with his parents after high school graduation in 1970.  The partnership with Dale’s parents, George and Marcella, progressed until January 1, 2009, when Dale and Linda took over the farm completely as Lindale Holsteins.

     

    Dale & Linda on...

    Our farming philosophy

    Farming is more about who we are rather than what we do. There’s more to our family than breeding good cows and winning the show ring. We’re committed to the registered Holstein breed and to promoting a positive image of agriculture.

    The best thing about being a farmer

    Working in the outdoors, being one’s own boss, no two days are ever the same, a sense of pride in helping to feed the world.

       
    From a Farmer

    Cows naturally produce BST, a growth hormone that stimulates milk production. Therefore, any glass of milk has BST. Neither a scientist nor a consumer can tell the difference between a glass of milk with BST and one without rBST. There are NO definitive studies that show harmful effects from rBST milk.

    NOT every cow in our herd (or any herd) is given rBST. She must be in good physical condition and be in good health. If a cow is to receive rBST, it will be 90 -100 days into her lactation (milk cycle); the dose is mere milliliters compared to her weight of 1,500 pounds plus it is given once every two weeks until the end of her milking cycle.

    Choosing organic dairy products is a consumer choice. However, it is NOT a choice between a healthy, safe glass of milk without rBST and one with rBST incorrectly assuming it is not as safe, healthy. It is a choice between paying a higher price (usually if not always) for organic. Also it can be said that virtually all milk (organic or not) is labeled as rBST free.

  • Mike & Lynn Martz Family
    Mike & Lynn Martz Family

    Maple Park, IL

    We raise beef cows and grow corn, soybeans and wheat.

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    About our family

    We have a son, Justin, our daughter-in-law, Jamie, our grandson, Jaxson and our granddaughter Jaedyn.

    About our food

    We grow corn, soybeans and wheat on 6,350 acres. We can also raise 3,500 beef cattle at a time on our feedlot.

    About our farm

    We’ve been farming since 1979, when we formed the Larson Farms Partnership with Lynn’s father, Ray, and her brothers, Dave and Norm.

    We spent the first nine years managing the cattle backgrounding operation in Wisconsin. (Backgrounding means raising the calves on pasture and getting them ready for the feedlot.)  

    In 1988, we moved to the main farm in Maple Park. Mike worked with Lynn’s father, Ray, managing the feedlot (where we use high-energy rations to “finish” the cattle, which means getting them ready for market). Lynn handled the billing for our custom feedlot.

     

    In 1996, Lynn’s brothers, Norm and Dave, had the opportunity to work with Case IH to develop a crop scouting business (a service to farmers where professionals monitor and evaluate crop health and growth). So at that time, Lynn started to manage the cropping side of the farm.  And our sister-in-law Barb (Norm’s wife) took over the cattle billing as the crop acres began to grow in size. 

    Our son Justin joined the Larson Farms Partnership in 2011.

    Mike & Lynn on...

    Our farming philosophy

    To provide safe, nutritious, wholesome beef products to consumers with humane treatment of each animal and production practices that are environmentally friendly.

    The best thing about being a farmer

    Seeing the fruits of our labor. Though the weather and markets can be challenging, it’s very rewarding to see our accomplishments.

    From a Farmer

    Mike Martz - I did the research on it. That 3 oz portion of beef that you've got from a hormone- free steer has 1.3 nanograms of estrogen in it. From an implanted steer (with a hormone put in it) it has 1.9 nanograms of estrogen. That baked potato that you are going to have with that delicious 3 oz portion of beef has 225 nanograms of estrogen. My point is that other products that have a lot more estrogen in them.

  • Pilar Clark
    Pilar Clark

    Lisle, IL

    I'm a long-time writer and social media strategist and work-at-home mom.

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    About me

    I'm a long-time writer and social media strategist and work-at-home mom who understands the need for balance and the difficulty of achieving it in everyday life. Seeing my children thrive and grow is like basking in sunshine.

    About my family

    We're a relatively traditional suburban clan, made up of two parents and two children, a 5-year old and a 2-year old. Our family likes to spend time at the local zoos and museums and the beach during the summer, and we look forward to taking our children abroad when they're older to explore their multicultural roots.

    Why I'm a Field Mom

    I often wonder who cultivates and raises the foods found in our fridge. What kind of farms does our food come from? What kinds of fertilizers, pest control and hormones are used? Who are the people involved and what are their own family food traditions? Knowing how things go from farm to fridge and hearing from the folks who are deeply vested in their farming traditions would be amazing.

    How I was inspired about food

    I remember eating together as a family, and loved seeing my mom and granny making dinner even though both also worked. It inspired me to start experimenting in the kitchen at a young age with the knowledge that a love of cooking and career could go hand in hand.

    From a Mom

    You would have to eat 2,900 lbs. of (hormone) implanted steer to equal the amount of hormones in birth control pills (example: Beef from a steer treated with estrogen contains 1.9 nanograms – a billionth of a gram – while a girl prior to puberty has 54,000 nanograms of estrogen naturally occurring in her system).

What's your perspective?

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Video

  • Hormones in meat and milk

    The Field Moms ask about artificial growth hormones in meat and milk. Watch their discussion on hormone use and food safety with farmers and veterinarian, Brian Gerloff.