The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
New Label Tells Consumers if Meat is Free of Growth-Enhancing Drugs
A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification program for livestock producers would permit them to market their products with a special label saying the meat contains no drugs called beta agonists—which some estimates say are fed to up to nearly 80 percent of U.S.-raised livestock.
Beta agonists are feed additives used to increase muscle mass and promote weight gain in livestock animals. The drugs are typically added to feed along with vitamins and given to animals while they’re in feedlots for a few weeks before slaughter.
Meat producers seeking the “Never Fed Beta Agonists" label would be required to document to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service that they haven’t given growth enhancers to their animals and that the meat contains no residues of the controversial drugs.
Commonly used growth-enhancing drugs in the beta-agonist family include ractopamine, which is fed to hogs and turkeys, and zilpaterol, which is fed to cattle. Trademarked beta agonists include Zilmax and Optaflexx, with one of the two being administered to 70 percent to 80 percent of the U.S. cattle herd in 2012, according to some estimates.
The use of beta agonists for finishing cattle became a concern over the summer when Merck, the makers of Zilmax, suspended sales due to animal welfare concerns from packers. Tyson Foods stopped buying Zilmax-fed cattle in September because cattle had been delivered to its plants having trouble walking or being unable to move.
In December 2012, animal-rights and food-safety groups petitioned the FDA to lower the allowed residue limits for ractopamine and study the drug’s effects on human health and animal welfare.
“The continued use and abuse of ractopamine in our food supply needs to be put in check,” said Elisabeth Holmes, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety, which filed the 37-page petition in concert with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ajit Niranjan
Seven 'no-regret' actions could rescue insects on the road to extinction, a new roadmap for conservation says, helping ecosystems even where a lack of research means scientists cannot prove benefits to individual species.
5 People in U.S. Test Positive for Deadly Coronavirus and Trump Admin Could Be Unprepared to Fight It
Editor's note: The coronavirus that started in Wuhan has sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 100 in China as of Jan. 27, 2020. Thailand and Hong Kong each have reported eight confirmed cases, and five people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the illness. People are hoping for a vaccine to slow the spread of the disease.