What Does No Added Hormones Mean?

The label "no added hormones" on meat products means farmers have raised the source of meat without supplemental hormones. Other versions of the label include "raised without hormones," "no hormones administered," or "no synthetic hormones."

It can sound kind of serious to someone just reaching for a snack, but we know your health is important and you have every reason to be concerned about consuming foods with added hormones.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several steroid hormones for use in cattle, hogs, and sheep raised for meat since the 1950s, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, the European Union equivalent to the FDA) and several other countries ban the use. Underpinning the confusion are several independent studies showing that added hormones have been traced to cancer and early puberty.

This ocean-sized rift between the FDA and other international agencies leaves many questions for regular consumers. So, let's take a closer look at the use of added hormones in meat production and why anyone snacking on jerky should avoid them.

Hormones in Meat

Hormones are chemical messengers found in almost every animal (including people) that encourage organs to exert energy. They influence complex processes like growth, metabolism, and fertility.

Hormones are a natural part of an animal's physiology and you can find trace amounts in the food you consume. However, medical technology has allowed farmers to introduce increased amounts of hormones—added hormones—into their livestock's bodies, which also find their way to your food.

Hormones Are Naturally Occurring

Animals produce hormones naturally, including humans.

The most common are:

  • Estrogen
  • Oxytocin
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone

Upon seeing "no hormones" or "hormone-free" on any label, you would be right to raise an eyebrow. Every type of meat people consume comes from hormone-producing animals.

Hormones, however, become a problem when they are introduced unnaturally.

Added Hormones

Food producers primarily use added hormones in beef and other meats to increase yield. Some farmers add hormones to their livestocks' feed, but many also implant a dissolvable pellet behind the animal's ear. Interestingly, the ears of animals treated with pellets are discarded rather than put in the food supply.

Common Uses of Added Hormones in Meat Production
Growth Hormones Reproductive Hormones
Cattle and sheep raised for meat Dairy cows, hogs
  • Increasing the amount of meat each animal produces
  • Inducing milk production
  • Accelerating the birthing process

The FDA has only approved growth hormones in meat production for beef-producing cattle. They have not approved added growth hormones for dairy cows, veal calves, pigs, or poultry. However, additional hormones are approved to accelerate birthing and milk production in hogs and dairy cattle.

Common Supplemental Hormones Found in Meat

Growth and reproductive hormones are the only types approved for added use in the lifecycle of meat livestock. They can be naturally occurring or synthetic versions of the natural hormone.

Common Hormones Found in Meat
Growth Hormones Reproductive Hormones
Natural Synthetic Natural Synthetic
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • Zeranol
  • Acetate
  • Trenbolone
  • Oxytocin
  • Syntocinon
  • Pitocin

These hormones are also found in people and are medically approved for use on humans, but they still may have unintended effects.

Added Hormones in Meat: Effects on Humans

While the FDA has approved adding hormones to meat, studies have linked hormone increases in humans to health concerns such as cancer and premature puberty.

Craig Minowa, an environmental scientist with the Organic Consumers Association, explained the dilemma in a recent WebMD article. He says that despite many meat industry-funded studies showing supplemental hormones in meat pose no risk to consumers, many independent studies say otherwise.

For example, researchers have tied increased estrogen levels in people to higher rates of breast cancer. A synthetic hormone, DES (Diethylstilbestrol) farmers used in the 1970s was taken off the market after it was connected to higher vaginal cancer rates in women. While there's no conclusive evidence, many tie meat hormones to early puberty in people.

Added Hormones = Lower Quality Beef Jerky

Low-quality, mass jerky producers are focused on creating more products, not quality products. And, they have built added hormones directly into their business plan. They rely on unnaturally large livestock to produce more meat. It helps them make big profits, regardless of how it impacts your health (or the flavor of the meat). For them, cost is the bottom line.

This is not the case with quality beef jerky, which uses beef raised without added hormones. Cattle raised without added hormones tend to come from more conscientious farmers who take a more natural approach to raising animals. Livestock raised without added hormones are typically fed a healthier diet and live happier, longer lives.

Beef jerky made without added hormones may be a little more expensive, but you also get delicious, rich, natural beef flavor, without the additives.

Our Commitment: No Added Hormones

At Karl Family Farms, we only craft high-quality meat snacks. We never give added hormones or other supplements to our animals. From start to finish we raise them on fresh grass, in open pastures where they are free to roam. Plus, we never use chemical preservatives in our recipes.

This natural approach produces safer, healthier, and more delicious snacks for you. And we believe it's the right way to do things. The results are wholesome, delicious snacks that everyone will enjoy. Give them a try! We're sure you agree.