Canadian Animal Health Institute

Hormones

The use of growth promoting hormones has been an approved and widely used management tool for raising healthy beef cattle since the 1960s. Designed to make raising cattle more cost efficient, the savings are passed on to the consumer through a highly affordable meat.

For more than 40 years, growth hormones have been given to cattle in Canada and the U.S. to improve the animal’s ability to more efficiently utilize nutrients and produce leaner beef.  Joining the nations of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Chile and two dozen other countries that allow the use of growth hormones, Health Canada has approved the use of the natural hormones estradiol 17-ß, progesterone and testosterone, and synthetic hormones zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengesterol acetate (MGA).  With the exception of MGA, the hormones are approved either alone or in a combination as components of an ear implant.  MGA is approved as a feed additive and also prevents heat cycles in heifers.  Use of these products results in increases in the growth rate of steers from +10 to +30%. 

Health Canada imposes stringent safety requirements before a product can be sold or used in Canada.  In approving growth hormones for use in beef cattle, Health Canada concluded that use of these products in cattle results in an:

  • Absence of harmful residues in edible tissues
  • Absence of acute toxic effects in animals
  • Absence of chronic physiological effects
  • Absence of mutagenic or carcinogenic potential
  • No undesirable effects on performance or health.

All foods contain naturally-occurring hormones.  Plants like cabbage and soy contain higher levels of hormones than a serving of beef from a treated animal, while an average daily dose of oral contraceptive contains 2,500 times the amount of hormones found in beef.  Our bodies produce hormones in even greater amounts.

For more information on hormones, see: