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More About Beef

There’s a lot more to beef than meets the eye. Make informed decisions after reading what we have to say about buying beef cuts and how lean protein fits into maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle requires lean beef as part of the daily nutritional diet. It is a rich source of protein and contains the nine essential amino acids that your body is unable to produce.

Protein is the primary nutrient in the diet and is indispensable. 

  • Protein serves as the building material for the body's muscles, connective tissue, bones, brain, blood, skin, hair and nails.
  • Protein is of particular importance to the growing child and adolescent.
  • Protein is essential in regulating the body's functions..
  • Your immune system, that protects you against disease, is dependent on protein. Red meat contains vitamin B complex (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin), vitamins B6 and B12.

Beef is also an excellent source of minerals, especially iron, Zinc, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Magnesium and Manganese.

For a limited, but adequate, intake of cholesterol, the Heart Foundation South Africa and Dietary Guidelines recommend that a total of 300 mg of cholesterol be consumed on a daily basis.

Research studies on South African Beef has been clear that a serving of 100 g of cooked boneless lean beef provides less than a third of the recommended intake. Karan Beef's commitment to consistently high standards ensures that their 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 to the USA average of 30%.

The Hormone Myth

"How safe is our beef" is a topic of media attention which increases or decreases depending on rumour or incidents in the world's beef industry.

Very rarely are either the media of consumers at large sufficiently knowledgeable to make any kind of intelligent judgement on potential foodborne hazards. Their stance on the subject has traditionally been emotional and void of any scientific substantiation.

Dr. Dixie Lee, Governor of Washington State, made an interesting statement in 1989, " despite all the evidence of our physical wellbeing - beyond the dreams of all previous generations - we seem to have become a nation of easily frightened people. Perhaps we can be classified as the healthiest hypochondriacs in the world." The use of anebolic steroids in animal production, to enhance the well-being of the animals while maximising feed efficiency, is one such perceived hazard which 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 man and animal daily in varying amounts.

Hormones in Food

  • Vegetables, in man's diet, contribute close to 90% of all compounds with hormonal activity.
  • Vegetables contain specific phyto hormones and these are also found in the fodder consumed by domestic animals.
  • Phyto hormones with and ostrogenic activity are found in natural vegetable products consumed daily by man for e.g. potatoes, cherries, apples, cabbage, beans, even hops used for brewing beer. They are also found in soya and sunflower oils.
  • Interestingly enough beer contains more than ten times the hormone level of beef which means that eleven steaks of 300 grams each will have the same amount of hormones as a 340ml can of beer.

Below are set out comparative levels of hormones in beef compared with commonly used "natural" foodstuffs.

Equivalent amounts (ng/500g):

Soybean oil 1 000 000
Cabbage 12 000
Wheat germ 2 000
Peas 2 000 
Eggs 7 500
Ice cream 3 000
Milk 65
Beef from non-implanted cattle 8
Beef from implanted cattle 11

Naturally Occurring Estrogen in Humans (ng/500g)

Pregnant woman 900 000 000
Non-pregnant woman 5 000 000
Adult man 100 000
Pre-puberal 40 000
Beef from implanted cattle 11

Hormones are used to improve the efficiency of conversion of feed energy to lean meat.

Hormones in Animal Production

When they are used it is only done 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 by our Registrar under Act 36 of 1947 and these only after many years of extensive local and international safety trials. These are estradiol, progesterone and testosterone, which are the natural hormones and two synthetic hormones zeranol and trenbalone acetate. Studies in the US indicate 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, one of the strictest human health safety organisations in the world, has approved the use of properly administered hormonal implants for beef production.

Implant safety is also implied in the fact that in 40 years of application, no safety problem has ever arisen.

"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 and "uncontaminated pure" background. This raises concern in the minds of consumers regarding the safety and healthiness of normal beef. Studies conducted by the centre for Red Meat Safety found that it is highly unlikely that there is any difference between residues of harmful chemicals in "Normal Beef" versus "Natural Beef".

EU Hormone Ban

the "Hormone Ban" is one of the better known tariff barriers implemented by a country to protect its domestic market.

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

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

  • To prevent EU producers 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 a the International Court and the European community lost its case with the conclusion that there were no scientific grounds whatsoever to substantiate the EU claim that beef ex America 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.


Growth hormones occur naturally in all animals and humans.
Growth hormones occur in much higher levels in food products other than beef.
The following prominent agencies renowned for their concern for human food safety concluded that growth hormones used in beef production pose no safety risk to humans consuming the beef:

  • US Food and Drug Administration
  • World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
  • Codex Alimentarius
  • 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 relative to risk to human health because of implantation of hormones in beef production units are totally unfounded