Drought Accelerates Use of Drugs to Beef Up Cattle

Cattle feeders in the U.S. are coping with reduced herds and high corn costs in part by increasing their use of growth-inducing drugs designed to bulk up animals, get more pounds of beef from each carcass and circumvent the drought’s withering effects on the food cycle.

Accelerated use of the drugs, known as “beta-agonists,” is defended by producers who say they are essential to withstanding the drought and their pharmaceutical creators who insist the additives are safe. But their use is drawing new scrutiny both at home and abroad, especially now that Russia and other key markets for U.S. beef have banned their use and some domestic producers worry about the additives’ potential effect on beef tenderness and flavor.

In February, Russia joined the European Union, China and other countries banning the import of beef raised on the additives. 

The United States – which along with other countries such as Mexico and Canada which allow the supplements – blame politics, not food safety fears, for the export bans. But some U.S. consumer groups are also taking notice. In December, the Center for Food Safety and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with FDA urging the agency to conduct comprehensive studies on the long-term effects of human consumption and animal health. [Topeka Capitol-Journal]

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