Beta-Agonists and Beef Production: A Smart Choice for Increased Yields By Brandi Buzzard Frobose

There has been a lot of discussion in the beef industry about growth promoting technologies, such as beta-agonists, which help cattle make the most of the food they eat and result in more muscle instead of fat. While there are a lot of opinions on the use of beta-agonists, we want to share the facts about the important role they play in modern beef production:

  • Cattle farmers use these feed ingredients in targeted ways, only adding small amounts to the animals’ feed at a specific time in their lives. They are metabolized quickly by cattle so they are not stored by the body over time. 
  • The human food safety of meat from animals fed ractopamine (a beta-agonist) has been affirmed by 28 regulatory bodies, including the international food standards body Codex Alimentarius Commission, which was created by the World Health Organization.
  • Cattle farmers consult with animal nutritionists and veterinarians when they evaluate whether to use beta -agonists in their feeding and cattle care program.
  • There are a lot of factors that guide this team’s decision, including type of cattle, condition of cattle, customer expectations, such as yield and quality grades, as well as leanness, weather or seasonal conditions. They also consider the farm’s environmental goals because cattle fed these feed ingredients need less grain, which reduces the farm’s demand on natural resources.

Producers who choose to utilize beta-agonists do so based on personal research and because they believe in the safety and efficacy of the products. One such producers, Anne Burkeholder, feedyard owner in Nebraska and author of the  Feedyard Foodie blog, shares her reasoning for choosing to implement beta-agonists on her operation.


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