Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Hormones In Meat: Science or Spin?

Hormone-free meat

Hormone growth promotants are used in as many as half of the steers and heifers raised for meat destined for the Australian market.

By Kate Osborne

Is the decision by supermarket giant Coles to sell only meat that is free of growth promoters based on science or just a clever marketing ploy?

Kate Osborne is an ecologist and science writer.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In September 2010, when supermarket giant Coles announced they were no longer going to sell meat from cattle treated with growth hormones, they revealed an inconvenient truth: that the meat in our supermarkets has been produced using the same hormones banned in the European Union since 1998 and banned in the Australian poultry industry since the 1960s.

Australian beef is very safe to eat. The National Residue Survey, which looks for all kinds of contaminants in food, found two instances from 5732 cattle tested of non-hormone-type residues in meat.

However, Coles’ exposure of the use of hormones in the beef industry is linked to a number of broader issues that affect our health and the health of our environment. These include the right to know how our food is produced through adequate labelling and whether the intensification of agriculture in Australia is moving at a greater pace than the science needed to ensure that productivity increases are sustainable.

Prof Alan Bell, chief of CSIRO Livestock, has estimated that hormone growth promotants (HGPs) are used in as many as half of the steers and heifers raised for meat destined for the Australian market. Cattle treated with HGPs have a pellet implanted into the ear containing hormones that slowly diffuse into the bloodstream. The hormones in the pellet are usually synthetic versions of sex hormones...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.