Organic Foods, Hormones and Antibiotics

Topics

Are Organic Beef and Dairy Products Free of Hormones and Antibiotics?

Discussion

Are Organic Beef and Dairy Products Free of Hormones and Antibiotics?

For the most part, yes. Most synthetic veterinary drugs - including antibiotics and growth hormones - are prohibited under organic regulations. In addition, producers of organic meat and dairy products must exclusively feed animals with organic feed, and must prevent contamination of organic feed with antibiotics and hormones. If animals become ill, beef and dairy producers are not allowed to withhold medications that might be needed to restore health. However, if antibiotics are used to treat illness, the beef or dairy producer is not longer allowed to label the meat, milk or cheese as organic.

These regulations are an important part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture 's (USDA's) Organic Foods Production Act. In the non-organic meat and dairy industry, hormone implants are widely used (especially estrogen implants) to promote quicker growth and better yield. In addition, antibiotics (often added to feed in powdered form) are routinely used on all animals as a preventive measure. By prohibiting the use of most synthetic veterinary drugs, including antibiotics and hormones, in certified organic meat and dairy products, the federal organic regulations go a long way in protecting the overall quality of these products.

Of course, since cows naturally make their own hormones (including estrogen), we would expect to some hormone residues in meat and dairy products even when those products had been certified as organic. (We have not seen actual research studies in this area.) However, we would expect hormone levels to be significantly lower in certified organic products. In addition, we would not expect to see antibiotic residues in certified organic meats and dairy products, whereas we would commonly expect to see them in non-organic meats and dairy products.

PRACTICAL TAKE-AWAY: If you want to lower your exposure to hormone and antibiotic residues in meat and dairy products, certified organic foods are your best bet.

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