HGPs and the cattle industry
HGPs have been used in Australia since 1979 and are used in most major beef producing countries around the world including the United States. HGPs have been through a rigorous government evaluation and registration process and are registered for use in many countries.
Cattle Council was disappointed in the language used by Coles in announcing their decision on 6 September to only seek beef that is HGP free, particularly linking the HGP decision with Coles’ ability to provide quality fresh food and address concern over animal welfare practices. Coles’ decision to provide HGP free beef will have no effect on their ability to provide quality, fresh food, nor will it have any effect on animal welfare outcomes.
Decisions around product specification and retail marketing are matters for the retailers. However, Cattle Council encourages consultation from retailers around language used for beef marketing and labelling so that accurate information based on science form the basis to consumer purchasing decisions around Australian beef.
Some common questions around HGP and cattle:
Is beef from hormone growth promotant-treated cattle safe for human consumption?
Scientific studies (including studies evaluated by the World Health Organisation) have shown beef from HGP treated cattle has been scientifically found to be safe for human consumption.*
Their use is approved and regulated by the Australian Government's Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and a report by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in the "Department of Health and Ageing" has declared that they do not pose a threat to consumers.**
HGPs supplement naturally occurring hormones and are present at much lower levels than the natural hormone levels found in other commonly consumed foods such as soybean oil, cabbage and eggs (Source: FEDESA - European Federation of Animal Health).
You would have to eat more than 77kg of beef from treated cattle in one sitting to get the same oestrogen as you do from eating one egg (FEDESA).
What impact do hormone growth promotants have on beef eating quality?
The industry eating quality grading system, Meat Standards Australia, aims to accurately predict the eating quality as judged by the consumer - not to be prescriptive as to how to raise, process or sell cattle.
Growth promotants may have an effect on the eating quality of some beef cuts - the effect differs between muscles. This effect can be managed during processing using management practices such as carcase tenderstretching and/or ageing of beef.
Why are hormone growth promotants used in cattle production?
While a majority of producers do not use HGPs it is estimated that around 40% of Australia's beef comes from cattle treated with HGPs. HGP usage is the choice of individual producers depending on their production system or market requirements. Many do so to enable their cattle to meet market weights at an earlier age.
Growth promotants add $210 million to the Australian beef industry each year in production gains (Source: NSW Department of Primary Industries 2008).
Growth rates of growth promotant-treated cattle are increased in the range of 10-30 % and feed conversion efficiencies are improved by 5-15 %.
The use of HGPs is strictly regulated and all HGP products must go through a rigorous accreditation process which is administered by the Australian Government agency the APVMA.
If eating beef from hormone growth promotant-treated cattle is safe why have the European Union (EU) banned it?
The EU has banned the use of HGPs since 1988, however, this position is contrary to overall international opinion and reviews and evaluations by leading world health authorities. The United States challenged the ban shortly after it was put in place, instigating World Trade Organization litigation against the EU. In 1998, The WTO found the EU's ban was not supported by science.
* Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, the Veterinary Products Committee of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK), the Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products for the European Medicines Agency and the Chemical Review and International Harmonisation Section, Office of Chemical Safety, Therapeutic Goods Administration of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.
** A 2003 report by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (part of the Department of Health and Ageing) found that "The human safety and toxicology of HGPs have been extensively assessed by regulatory authorities in each country, in addition to expert scientific committees of the World Health Organisation. There is also a plethora of published scientific studies relating to the biochemistry and physiology of these compounds. Based on this extensive database, all international bodies and national regulatory agencies, except the European Commission (EC), have concluded that residues of registered HGPs do not pose a threat to consumers when HGPs are used according to Good Veterinary Practice (GVP)." Read the full report.
Learn more about HGPs and cattle. refer to SAFEMEAT.