My big thing going into 2021 is I want people to get information straight from the horse’s mouth. I’ve debated writing about this topic for quite some time, scared of the backlash, but also feeling called to tell a different side of the story – one many may not have heard.
So here it is, folks: we use implants in our calves… sometimes referred to as hormone implants.
That’s right, full-disclosure… and at the risk of people jumping all down my throat – I’m telling you we use them.
But hear me out…
There are a lot of reasons farmers and ranchers might use them. Part of it is health, part of it is environment, and part of it is money. It’s also important to consider that many of these products have been on the market and approved by FDA for many, MANY years.
I mentioned FDA because you should know that FDA regulates every medicine, every implant, every medical product we utilize on our cattle, just like they do for us.
So, when we say hormone, we usually mean “sex” hormone and hormones are actually steroids. We use a product called Ralgro, which puts these tiny little beads under the skin of the ear of a calf. The active ingredient isn’t actually a sex hormone at all! But it is a steroid that encourages the pituitary gland to produce more hormones, thus helping the calf gain wait easier, faster, and with less inputs.
Let’s talk about why that matters, and thus why we use them…
Farm land shrinks every year as it’s canabalized by urban sprawl and development. Yet our population continues to grow. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we’ve clearly got a problem… even with the population we currently have, people starve. Thus farmers are constantly tasked with growing more food for more people, with less land.
Look, science has been solving the world’s problems since the world’s problems began. And we can all appreciate the importance of science….until science and food enter the same conversation and then people start freaking out. Look, I get it. Nobody wants to think about food being grown in a Petri dish. I certainly don’t. But the reality is that science, and those dang Petri dishes, often tell us farmers what we need to be doing to solve problems. Science utilized in our food production system is what helps us feed the world. We most definitely cannot grow enough food to support the world without it. Period.
So, what if I told you that there is a way to make more beef, faster on less land and with less water. Sounds great, right? That would be both good for people AND good for the environment!
Well, it’s name is Ralgro and it’s been on the market for more than thirty years.
On average, for every 24 doses of Ralgro used:
3,684lbs of feed are saved (and can be utilized for other animals or purposes)
0.6 acres of crop land can be repurposed
22,000 gallons of water are saved
3.57 acres of pasture can be repurposed
How is that possible?! To put it simply, calves are better able to convert the feed they eat into meat we eat, saving pasture, water, and grain – all which can be used to grow other cattle or crops to feed MORE people!
Also….each calf will have an extra 20lbs or so of meat vs a calf that didn’t have the implant… that matters to us from a financial perspective too. If you figure selling price of about $1.50/lb – that’s an improvement of $30/head when we sell our calves. $30×100 calves = an extra $3000/year. So, yeah… that extra $30 per calf may mean the difference between paying the mortgage, or not…
So let’s talk about the concerns… because certainly there are concerns from consumers.
First, it’s important to remember these products have all been rigorously studied and approved by FDA. I should also mention that I feed the beef we raise to our children, and if that doesn’t tell you I believe in its safety… I don’t know what will.
Second, it’s also important to look at the length these implants work. Ralgro lasts 120 days. We usually put the implant in before weaning. It’ll last 120 days, but that calf will not be ready for harvest for potentially another year or longer.
Meaning that implant we used is LONGGGGG GONNNEEEEE.
Worrying about added hormone in your beef would be a little bit like thinking your 5 year IUD will keep you from getting pregnant 10 years after you got it.
We all know how that one’s gonna work out… Hope you didn’t get rid of all your baby stuff!!!!
Third, I think it’s important to remember that a lot of these calves are ummmm missing the “family jewels”….
That’s right, they’re castrated (often right after birth). There are a lot of really important reasons for why this happens, but as you can imagine – if the family jewels aren’t there, they’re likely to be a little low on the sex hormones too. Thus, it’s reasonable to expect that by increasing these levels (through either an implant that has these hormones, or an implant that causes the body to produce these) that the calf will grow better.
And finally, if none of what I’ve said makes sense to you (maybe you’re a visual learner like myself!)… I like to put it in perspective with a pretty little chart I’ve stolen from Beef Magazine, via bestfoodfacts.org:
Look, at the end of the day, I just want you to know we don’t take the decision to use or not use a product lightly. We’re producing not just your food, but the food we feed our family – and we care immensely and take great pride in our product. I sincerely hope this has helped you understand why beef producers like us use these products. And if you still prefer to eat beef that was raised with no-added hormone (which is absolutely your choice!!) there are some wonderful beef producers who provide that product.
Still have questions? Ask! I’ll do my best to answer.