Growth Hormones in Cows & the Effects on Humans

Mark Gronowski |

In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in consumer scrutiny regarding food—specifically how it's produced and what goes into it. Among the many concerns regarding our increasingly opaque food system, the use of growth hormones in cattle is a hot topic. What exactly are the effects of these hormones on human health? Furthermore, what are the environmental and animal welfare implications? These concerns are not without merit.

The U.S. is one of the few countries where the use of hormone growth promotants (HGPs) in cattle is still permitted—at least 6 of these chemicals have been banned in the European Union since 1988. China also sees these HGPs as “unnatural” and bans their use. However, this practice is widely used in the USA, with the USDA estimating that over 20 million cattle each year are treated with HGP’s.

These growth hormones include both naturally occurring hormones like estradiol-17β, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as synthetic versions like zeranol, trenbolone, and melengestrol acetate (MGA). They help animals grow faster, improve fertility, and ultimately, lead to higher meat and milk yields from less feed. 

Consumers are understandably wary about the long-term health effects of consuming hormone-enhanced meat, including early-onset puberty, hormonal imbalances, and potential carcinogenic effects. And that’s not all—cows treated with HGPs often show signs of stress, a clear indication of poor animal welfare.

Stress affects animals the same way it does humans, most notably by lowering immunity. Lowered immunity combined with tight quarters in CAFOs leads to higher rates of infection, which then leads to greater antibiotic use. If you remember from biology, overuse of antibiotics increases the likelihood of antibiotic-resistant infections.

While many studies conducted in the US and Canada indicate that many of these hormones are mostly metabolized or excreted by the animal before the meat hits your plate, those excretions can find their way into the soil and water system. In short, the effects are wide-reaching. Worse, the FDA doesn’t require meat or milk producers to label cattle products as hormone-treated, so consumers are left in the dark.

Not to worry—Acabonac Farms is an excellent source of cleaner, more natural meat products. We believe that good health begins with how our food is raised, so our commitment is resolute: we provide only hormone-free, grass-fed, and pasture-raised beef. By respecting our livestock's natural growth processes, we are offering both healthier meat for you and a healthier planet overall.

Key Takeaways

  • A significant amount of US-bred cattle are treated annually with hormone growth promotants (HGPs), including both natural and synthetic hormones—and they don’t have to be labeled as such. These practices are banned in several other countries due to health and safety concerns.
  • There is growing consumer unease about the potential health risks of consuming hormone-enhanced meat, including hormonal imbalances and early-onset puberty. The impact of hormones on human health remains a significant area of research.
  • Hormone use in livestock can contribute to environmental issues, including pollution from animal excretions entering water systems.
  • The use of HGPs often leads to increased stress and lower immunity among cattle, which can result in higher antibiotic use and contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance.
  • Acabonac Farms offers a healthier alternative by providing only hormone-free, grass-fed, and pasture-raised beef, emphasizing the importance of natural growth processes and sustainable, ethical farming practices.
growth hormones in cows

Why Are Hormones Used In Meat Production?

The use of hormonal supplements has become a common practice in the US livestock industry as a means of maximizing efficiency and output in meat and dairy production. In our eyes, Big Agriculture sees profitability—not human health, animal welfare, or environmental impact—as the primary consideration. 

These hormones fall into two primary categories:

  1. Growth Hormones: Including steroids like recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). 
  2. Reproductive Hormones: Naturally occurring prostaglandin, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), estradiol-17β, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as their synthetic counterparts like zeranol, trenbolone, and melengestrol acetate (MGA). 

NOTE: While they aren’t technically hormones, the troubling use of antibiotics as growth-promoting substances is also commonplace in large-scale farming practices.

The primary function of these hormones is to increase outputs while minimizing costly inputs. These hormones help promote faster growth, increase muscle mass, and reduce fat. They are also used for managing reproductive efficiency, leading to more consistent and timely production of milk and meat. 

Unlike conventional farming practices, Acabonac Farms has a regenerative approach that focuses on raising cattle in their natural hormonal cycles without the intervention of synthetic or additional natural hormones. Our philosophy is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—we use the same methods of production as our ancestors did for hundreds of years before us.

We embrace a holistic management of our herds, ensuring they can freely graze on grass. This supports not only the natural behavior, health, and welfare of the cattle but also helps maintain ecological balance. By prioritizing the health of the animals and our farmland, we are able to avoid the potential risks associated with hormone additives in meat production.

no hormone beef

Naturally Occurring Hormones Vs. Added Hormones in Meat

The distinction between naturally occurring hormones and those that are synthetically added or administered for meat production is crucial for understanding the impact on animal health, meat quality, and consumer health.

Naturally occurring hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are integral to animal growth, development, and reproduction. Some level of these hormones are present in all animals—including humans—and play roles in regulating bodily functions like puberty and menses.

Livestock are treated with both synthetic and natural hormones in conventional farming. These include substances like zeranol, trenbolone, and melengestrol acetate (MGA), which mimic natural hormones. By increasing the natural concentration of hormones, producers are able to accelerate growth rates, increase milk production, and improve overall efficiency and profitability. 

Some hormones are added directly to the animal feed to be ingested during normal feeding. Others are concentrated into subcutaneous hormone implants placed under the ear skin of the cow to slowly release the hormones over an extended period. 

Acabonac Farms is committed to allowing our animals to grow according to their natural hormonal rhythms without the interference of external hormones. We believe this not only ensures the welfare of the animals but also results in higher-quality, more nutritious, and tastier meat that consumers can trust.

To summarize:


Naturally Occurring Hormones

Added Hormones


Produced by the animal's own body

Synthetically made or derived from other sources

Purpose in Livestock

Regulate normal growth and reproductive functions

Accelerate growth, increase production, enhance feed efficiency

Method of Administration

None needed (naturally produced)

Via feed additives or subcutaneous implants

Impact on Meat

Hormone levels are generally within natural ranges

Potential for hormone residues, which may impact consumer health

Acabonac Farms' Approach

No hormonal interference, promoting natural growth processes

Strictly no use of added hormones, focusing on sustainable, ethical farming

How Do Hormones in Meat Affect Humans?

Research into the effects of hormone residues in meat on human health has yielded conflicting viewpoints—some are convinced that there are negligible risks to humans (make sure you check the sources; they’re often funded by companies like Monsanto who have clear conflicts of interest), while others give reason for concerns. 

For instance, several studies suggest a possible link between the consumption of meat-containing hormone residues and endocrine disruption, which can lead to reproductive issues, early puberty (which has been a trend over the past several decades), and increased cancer risk. 

Additionally, there are worries that these hormones could contribute to earlier onset of puberty in children, which has been a trend over recent decades. While direct causation is hard to establish due to the complexities of dietary and environmental factors at play, the correlation is hard to ignore.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several hormones for use in beef cattle, including both natural and synthetic options. The FDA maintains that these hormones are safe for use in livestock production when used according to approved protocols, which are designed to ensure that hormone residues in meat remain within safe limits for human consumption. Another study disputes that assertion. 

Conversely, countries like the European Union, the UK, and New Zealand have more stringent regulations or outright bans on the use of certain growth hormones in meat production. These decisions are often based on the precautionary principle, erring on the side of caution in the absence of definitive data about the long-term health impacts. 

We here at Acabonac Farms align with this precautionary approach. By committing to hormone-free, grass-fed, and pasture-raised meat production, we can sidestep the issues associated with hormone use in livestock and provide our customers with cleaner, more naturally produced meat options. 

hormone-free meat

The Benefits of Choosing Hormone-Free Meat

Consumers can reduce their risk of exposure to hormone-related health issues by avoiding conventionally produced, hormone-treated meat. Hormone-free meat is often perceived as a safer option, as evidenced by the many countries that outlaw it. This is particularly true for children, who are more sensitive to hormonal disruptions. 

Hormone-free farming practices also offer substantial benefits beyond the dinner plate: 

  • Environmentally, the absence of synthetic hormones means there is no risk of these substances entering ecosystems through agricultural runoff, which can lead to soil and water pollution that affects both humans and wildlife. 
  • Ethically speaking, hormone-free farming respects the natural growth processes of animals, resulting in better animal welfare. 
  • As if that weren’t enough to convince you, when animals grow at a natural pace (i.e. without the use of growth hormones), they tend to have better muscle texture and flavor development. 

At Acabonac Farms, the choice of hormone-free meat is not just about avoiding hormones—it's about embracing a comprehensive approach to food that respects the environment, animal welfare, and our bodies. 

Our commitment to these regenerative principles is evident in every product we offer, ensuring that our customers enjoy not only the taste but also the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are consuming ethically and sustainably produced meat.

Does Grocery Store Meat Have Hormones?

Yes, all of the meat sold in grocery stores contains hormones, insofar as all animals naturally produce some hormones. 

However, if you’re asking if the meat has been treated with hormones, the answer is also yes, most of the time. It’s estimated that 90% or more of conventionally raised American beef is treated with some form of hormones, and since there is no required labeling for animals who have been treated, chances are that it has. Remember that the use of hormones is banned in poultry and pork in the US.

Where to Buy Meat with No Added Hormones

Looking for meat that hasn’t been treated with hormones might feel daunting, but we have some easy steps to follow:

Step 1: Understand Labels

  • Organic: Meat labeled as “USDA Organic” must come from animals raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. This is one of the most reliable labels to look for if you want to avoid added hormones.
  • No Hormones Administered: This indicates that no hormones were used during the animal’s growth. For beef and lamb, this label is meaningful and regulated. However, remember that hormones are not legally used in poultry or pork, so this label on chicken or pork products should also state that such use is prohibited by law.

Step 2: Shop Smarter

  • Local Farmers Markets: These are excellent places to meet and buy directly from farmers. Many farmers who participate in local markets pride themselves on sustainable and ethical farming practices, including avoiding the use of hormone therapy.
  • Specialty Grocery Stores: It tracks that stores that focus on natural and organic foods are more likely to stock a variety of hormone-free meats and often provide information regarding the source and raising practices of the meat they sell.
  • Co-ops & Health Food Stores: These establishments often have strict sourcing criteria, making them a good source for hormone-free meat.
  • Online Farms & Retailers: For the ultimate convenience and widest selection, consider buying from reputable online farms and retailers that specialize in hormone-free meats. Acabonac Farms offers a guarantee of no added hormones, providing grass-fed, pasture-raised beef from our farm directly to your door.

Step 3: When in Doubt, Ask

  • Ask Your Butcher: Don’t hesitate to ask your meat guy—a knowledgeable butcher can provide detailed information about the meat’s origin and how it was raised.
  • Check Online Directories: Websites like EatWild and LocalHarvest are excellent for connecting you to local sources of hormone-free meat in your area.
  • Read Online Reviews & Forums: Online community forums and review sites can offer insights about where to shop in your area or online. Just make sure that the reviews are not sponsored to ensure you’re getting accurate information instead of a paid advertisement!

How Acabonac Farms Ensures Meat Quality Without Hormones

Acabonac Farms is not just about producing meat; we are about setting a standard for how meat should be produced. We firmly believe that the quality of the meat we produce is a direct reflection of the quality of care and life we provide to our livestock. 

Our cattle are grass-fed and pasture-raised, meaning they roam freely in their natural habitat and eat what they are biologically designed to digest—grass. Unlike conventional feedlot settings, our spacious pastures allow cattle to live in a way that is conducive to their natural behaviors and growth cycles.

Meat from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals is not only tastier but also nutritionally superior. It contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for cardiovascular health, and has more antioxidants, including vitamins A and E. 

Additionally, grass-fed meat has higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), known for its cancer-fighting properties and ability to reduce heart disease and obesity risks. These nutritional benefits are the direct results of a natural diet and humane raising practices, free from artificial enhancers like hormones.

We believe that an informed consumer is an empowered consumer, so we are forthright about our practices. Transparency is at the core of Acabonac Farms' operation. We are committed to providing our customers with the most natural, ethically produced meat—and we’re fully prepared to back up our claims. 

Rest assured that from pasture to plate, each step of production is carefully monitored to ensure that our high standards are met. This includes frequent health checks for our animals, sustainable land management practices, and rigorous quality control measures during processing.

Where Can You Buy Hormone-Free Meat Online?

The use of hormones in some livestock production is intended to accelerate growth and increase yield. However, this can lead to potential health risks for consumers and negative impacts on animal welfare. 

Acabonac Farms is dedicated to providing safe, high-quality, hormone-free meat. We pride ourselves on our sustainable, grass-fed, and pasture-raised farming practices. Our cattle are raised without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, or other artificial inputs—our cows have been raised in their natural physiological rhythms, ensuring the meat is as natural and healthy as possible.

We invite you to purchase hormone-free meat online from Acabonac Farms. We offer a variety of meat options that cater to different tastes and preferences—browse through our extensive range of hormone-free beef, grass-fed lamb, pastured pork, and pastured chicken options.

Not sure what to try? Some of our customer favorites include grass-fed ribeye, ground beef, and Delmonico steak. You can also try any of our curated boxes (or build your own!) for delicious variety.

By choosing Acabonac Farms for your meat purchases, you are not only getting a product that is free from hormones but also supporting a system that values health, sustainability, and ethical practices. What are you waiting for? Make the switch to hormone-free options and experience the difference in taste, quality, and overall well-being today.

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