More about beef

Know your beef

Learn more about beef, hormones and the importance of including beef in your meals as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

    Beef and health

    Beef is a crucial part of a healthy, nutritional diet. It is a rich source of protein and contains the nine essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce. Protein serves as the building blocks for the body's muscles, connective tissue, bones, brain, blood, skin, hair and nails. Your immune system is also dependent on protein.

    Red meat contains Vitamin B complex (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin), Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 and is also an excellent source of minerals like iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium and manganese.

    For a limited but adequate intake of cholesterol, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa and its dietary guidelines recommend that a total of 300g be consumed daily.

    Research studies on South African beef have clarified that a serving of 100g of cooked boneless lean beef provides less than a third of the recommended cholesterol intake. Karan Beef's commitment to consistently high standards ensures that our beef is not only Class A in taste, tenderness and nutrition, but is also very lean by international standards. Our average carcass measured fat is only 13% compared with the US average of 30%.

    The hormone myth

    Discussions on beef safety increase or decrease depending on rumours or incidents in the global beef industry. The use of anabolic steroids in animal production to enhance the well-being of the animals while maximising feed efficiency is an alleged hazard that warrants objective comment.

    The optimum growth of all body tissue is directly related to hormones. They are found everywhere in the animal kingdom and are secreted and consumed by humans and animals daily in varying amounts.

    Hormones in food

    Vegetables contribute close to 90% of all compounds with hormonal activity to our diet. Vegetables contain specific phytohormones which are also found in the fodder consumed by livestock.

    Phytohormones with estrogenic activity are found in natural vegetable products such as potatoes, cherries, apples, cabbage, beans and even hops used for brewing beer. They are also found in soy and sunflower oils.

    Hormones in animal production

    Hormones are only used on the recommendations of specialist veterinary physicians. And the withdrawal periods prescribed by the manufacturers are always applied before cattle are sent to the abattoir.

    Five hormones have been approved for use in beef production – the natural hormones estradiol, progesterone and testosterone and two synthetic hormones, zeranol and trenbolone acetate. US studies show that any increase above the natural level of these naturally occurring hormones in implanted cattle is so minute as to be insignificant. Residues from an implant cannot be differentiated from naturally occurring hormone levels.

    The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of adequately administered hormone implants for beef production. Implant safety is also implied because no safety problem has ever arisen in the 40 years of its application.

    ‘Normally Produced Beef’ vs ‘Natural Beef’

    Advertising strategies around "Natural Beef" have been structured to convince consumers that "Normally" produced beef is unhealthy and inferior while the "Natural" product is from an "uncontaminated pure" background. This raises concerns in the minds of consumers about the safety and health of normal beef. Studies conducted by the Centre for Red Meat Safety found it improbable that there was no difference between residues of harmful chemicals in "Normal Beef" compared with "Natural Beef".

    EU hormone ban

    The "Hormone Ban" implemented by EU member countries is often cited as having scientifically based proof of the "dangers" of consuming hormone-treated products.

    It is a well-established fact that the "Hormone Ban" revolved around two reasons:

    To prevent EU producers from contributing even more to their overproduction of beef and adding larger volumes to the already large Intervention Stockpile.

    To keep US beef exports out of Europe.

    The banning of US hormone beef was taken to the International Court. The European Community lost its case with the conclusion that there were no scientific grounds to substantiate the EU claim that beef from the US was a hormone health hazard.

    It was concluded that the attempts to ban US hormone-implanted beef were not based on any scientific evidence whatsoever. As a result of this ruling, the US has been granted commensurate trade relief.

    These leading food safety agencies concluded that growth hormones used in beef production pose no safety risk to humans consuming the beef. They are the:

    • US Food and Drug Administration
    • World Health Organisation (WHO)
    • Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
    • Codex Alimentarius Commission
    • European Economic Community (EEC)
    • Scientific Working Group on Anabolic Agents (1981)
    • European Community (EC) Scientific conference on Growth Promotion in Meat Production (1995)

    Evidence forces one to conclude that any fears relating to the risk to human health due to the implantation of hormones in beef production units are unfounded.

    Learn more about hormones in beef and the difference between "Normally Produced Beef" and "Natural Beef" here.

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