4.28.16 / ADMIN
Measuring Hormones in Food, One M&M at a Time
By Joan Ruskamp
Joan and her husband run a cattle-finishing operation and raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa on their farm in Dodge, Nebraska.
I get many questions from moms once they know I raise beef cattle. Moms most often want to know if the meat they buy is full of hormones. To help answer their question, I put together a demonstration showing the levels of estrogen hormone in different foods, including cabbage, peas, potatoes and beef. The demonstration was meant to be a conversation starter about the amount of hormones in our food. What I didn’t realize was the shock it would be for people to realize that estrogen is naturally found in all living things that we eat.
Much of the food we eat contains hormones of some type, because plants and animals need estrogen to grow.
My husband and I raised five children. I know that the amount of estrogen produced in my body to allow me to get pregnant, have babies and feed my babies is much different than the estrogen I get in the foods I eat. All hormones are like upper management telling various organ systems what to do. Hormones are not sitting in muscle tissue in some sort of stand by mode waiting to do something.
We also give our cattle a little boost of hormones, which allows the animal to produce a more sustainable meat protein. We work with our veterinarians and the Beef Quality Assurance standards to make sure we give that hormone in a very responsible way. The added hormone looks like a small pellet and is placed under the skin in the ear. The hormones are slowly utilized over a period of several months to send signals that help him use less feed to produce more pounds of meat.
Hormone levels in beef are lower than in potatoes, peas and cabbage
As you can see in the photo above, I measured M&M’s into pint jars so they represent the amount of hormones in nanograms (one billionth of a gram) found in different foods.
- In the pint jar furthest to the right, is a sixth of an M&M. This sliver of an M&M represents the amount of hormones found in a 3 oz serving of beef, which comes from an animal given added hormones.
- In the two middle pint jars are the amount of hormones found in 3 oz serving of potatoes and peas, with about 20 M&Ms in each.
- The pint jar on the left end, which is full of M&Ms, showcases the amount of hormones found in a 3 oz serving of cabbage.
My husband and I care deeply about providing a nutritious beef product you can feel safe about eating. If you have any questions about hormones in meat or other food, please feel free to ask.