Now that we know why we need protein, where we can get it, and how important sustainability is, it is time to cover some other facts and truths. Growth Hormones such as: bovine growth hormone (BGH), or bovine somatotropin (BST) are suspected of increasing a person risk for several types of cancers. These cancers include (but are not limited to): certain types of vaginal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, in addition to a host of other ailments.
Why Animals Are Given These Substances?
- Growth hormones are chemicals produced in the bodies of all living things. In a natural setting, they contribute to birth rates, protein synthesis, muscle growth, and reproductive traits. Hormones control body functions and are an essential part of every organism’s body chemistry.
- Unfortunately, in an attempt to gain more profits and lower overhead our agricultural industry has adopted the practice of introducing growth hormones into the animals we depend on to gain our protein. Two major U.S. industries have come under attack in recent years - Milk and Beef.
- Growth hormone implementation has been introduced into these industries for several simple economic reasons. First of all, animals given substances like (BGH) grow much faster. They are able to reach maturity younger, put on weight faster, and cost less to bring to "the market." In addition, dairy cows, are able to produce more milk, also become mature faster, and cost less to care for. The benefits to the agricultural industries “bottom line” are clear, but what does this mean for the consumer?
What Are the Effects to Humans?
- To say the research pertaining to this subject is inconclusive would be an understatement.
- Critics of these practices and some scientific evidence suggests that the ingestion of these substances can cause children to reach puberty early, increase the risk of various types of cancers, and affect body chemistry.
- In addition, many of the hormones introduced into agricultural animal stocks can affect the animals’ ability to sustain and maintain appropriate amounts of protein. Meaning, they live unhealthy lives and so can the consumer who consumes them.
- “Cows treated with rBGH tend to develop more udder infections (mastitis). These cows are given more antibiotics than cows not given rBGH. Does this increased use of antibiotics lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and is this a health concern for people? This remains a concern, but it has not been fully examined in humans” (American Cancer Society).
- This agricultural practice could aid in facilitating the spread of more bacterially resistant strains of infections to humans and animals alike.
So What Can Consumers Do?
- As always, education and knowledge are the keys to longevity.
- Practice informed decision making. Know where you food is coming from, what substances may be introduced into the farming of this food, and if the farmers involved in “growing” this food practice natural farming.
- In addition to practicing self help, many may want to challenge this agricultural practice. While consequences for human ingestion may be inconclusive the effects to the animals is not. As illustrated above, animals involved in growth hormone farming live unnatural and unhealthy lives. The consequences to their body chemistry and quality of life have never been in dispute; however, the agricultural industry has done a wonderful job hiding this fact form consumers.
- If possible, buy your food local. Meat, vegetables, and other dietary products shipped to distant geographic regions undergo a variety of unhealthy nutrient sapping process. These products have been shown to produce lower quality protein and may actually be harmful to your health.
- Sustainability truly starts with self. Shop smart, shop informed.
"Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone." American Cancer Society :: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms. American Cancer Society, 18 Feb. 2011. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/recombinant-bovine-growth-hormone>.