Today's beef producer is not just responsible for raising quality beef. Everyone involved in the agricultural industry is an educator as well, helping inform consumers about the practice of producing their food. One often-discussed topic is the use of implants as a growth enhancement.
"We have talked to consumers quite a bit about what we do," says David Ast, manager at Irsik and Doll's Gray County Feedyard in
Ast says Gray County Feedyard has been using implants for nearly 25 years just about as long as the technology has been available and the 30,000-head capacity custom cattle-feeding operation has asked tough questions from the beginning to ensure that the animals are well cared for and will produce quality beef.
Like Ast, the majority of beef producers will market conventionally raised beef, says Gary Sides, PhD, nutritionist with Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Operations.
"Only a small segment of operations are raising natural or organic beef," Sides says. "This means implants likely play a role in helping producers economically and safely raise cattle. Producers know what benefits in average daily gain implants can provide, but – especially in this day and age it's worth arming yourself with solid facts to help consumers understand why these practices are important."
Sides says that the key facts he tries to get across to consumers whenever a question arises are:
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval: All growth-promoting products must be approved by the FDA, and approval is granted only after rigorous and extensive scientific tests to show efficacy and safety.
- Time tested: Growth-promoting products have been on the market for more than 30 years with no documented negative effect on human health.
- Natural occurrence: Hormones, like those used in growth-promoting products, are naturally occurring and found in all plants and animals. For example, a pound of cabbage contains 10,880 more nanograms of estrogen than a pound of beef from an implanted steer.1
For producers like Ast, record-keeping and regulations are two additional items that demonstrate their commitment to producing safe beef.
"The regulations and records we keep show our commitment to making sure the animals are well cared for, and that information is reviewed closely," he says. "Plus, we have an economic interest. Anything that could reduce the quality of the cattle we sell on the grid would be a concern for us. The data we get back on our cattle shows that simply isn't the case."
"Even considering the investment in the implant itself, the technology simply makes money for us," Ast says. "It takes no time at all to perform since we've got the cattle in the chute anyway to vaccinate and inspect every individual for overall health status. We do take care to do it right using clean needles, good procedure, and then we have our veterinarian check on the implants to ensure proper application. We want to be sure we're using the implant to its best advantage, and that the people who trust us with their cattle trust what we do."
To help arm beef producers with more information about implant technology and other technologies that contribute to sustainable beef production, visit the Sustainable Beef Resource Center (SBRC).
The SRBC was formed at the suggestion of beef producers and branded-beef marketers who recognized the need for a centralized source of facts about technologies used in sustainable beef production. SBRC members include marketing and technical representatives from leading