A Journalist's Archive

Would you like some growth hormones with that?
By Kathy Hare

Ah, it’s finally July! Six months since many of us vowed to eat healthier. So in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?”

America’s bulk has become somewhat of an obsession for me. I’m trying to understand it culturally and scientifically. When I travel to other states, I can’t help but notice that many people closely resemble cattle in a feed lot. Fat, not so happy, but ready to eat more! Yet on my first trip to the Netherlands, it became clear that Coloradans’ 18.4 percent obesity rate, the lowest in the nation, is nothing to brag about. Only 10 percent of the Dutch are obese, and the physical differences between the two populations are striking. They move faster with a spring in their step. Still, a sense of déjà vu engulfed me as I watched them, because that’s how Americans once moved, in my childhood world.

So in the past few months I’ve pored over books and science articles purporting to know what is turning human flesh into lard. How could America’s adult obesity rate soar from 12 percent in 1960 to 31 percent in 2010? Is it the number of calories we consume, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, or are other factors at work? Perhaps the old adage, “You are what you eat,” holds the answer.

Ok, it’s easier and less expensive to pedal to work in the Netherlands than drive. Amsterdam is a sea of bicycles with baskets, bags, and tow-behind trailers. Automobiles are reserved for out of town trips. But the Dutch certainly appear to love food and alcohol so I doubt they consume any fewer calories than us. Therefore, exercise obviously let’s you eat mass quantities and maintain a normal weight too. However, there may be another important factor at play. Dutch meats and dairy products do not contain growth hormones, and if the scientists are right, those hormones could be why Americans just keep getting bigger.

Almost every form of meat or dairy product we ingest can be labeled as “fast food.” It doesn’t matter whether you buy a streak and grill it up at home, or head to McDonald’s for their ¼ pounder. Each steer, chicken, pig, and lamb is fed superpower food, packed with growth hormones to get animals from mom to slaughter as quickly as possible. Consequently, a market steer can be turned into hamburger in 18 months instead of the 30 months it takes to raise one naturally on grass. In addition, dairy cows now pump out six times more milk than their 1980’s ancestors, thanks to a magic synthetic growth hormone, rBGH, developed by Monsanto Chemical Company.

What happens to all those growth hormones used to fatten up the animals we eat? What about the antibiotics needed because cattle aren’t designed to eat corn, meat by-products, or anything other than grass? Or the enormous amount of pesticide needed to grow the corn to fatten animals? While science tells us, unfortunately many wish to ignore the answers.

A Cornell University study said, “There are six different kinds of steroid hormones that are currently approved by the FDA for use in food production in the US: estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate, and melengestrol acetate.” Sounds yummy! The first two are female hormones, the third a male; the others are synthetic growth accelerators. The estrogen hormones are linked to premature puberty in girls as young as three. And the estrogen combined with the growth accelerators increases the risk of breast cancer in women of all ages. Few studies have examined what these hormones are doing to the male population. So we can only guess. But the surplus estrogen probably isn’t good.

Only USDA studies deny that dosing animals with hormones has any adverse affects on humans. The rest of the world knows that humans are mammals, with the same cellular structure as the animals we eat. Therefore, what goes into the animals ends up in our bodies.

 Other reputable studies say the pesticides on our fruit and vegetables do little harm, until combined with the other food additives. Then the pesticides in our bodies act as estrogen receptors, greedily grabbing estrogen, whether from nature or other sources. And our meat supply provides lots of extra estrogen. This aids the growth of tumors, enlarges normal cells, and makes gaining weight a breeze!

Immense agri-businesses in this country have one goal: to feed the masses as inexpensively as possible. But consumers drive the market. Organic fruits and vegetables didn’t appear in mainstream supermarkets until they began losing customers to other outlets. So if we start walking out of stores that don’t sell “hormone free meat products,” it will be noticed.

All types of “hormone/antibiotic free meats” are available in natural grocery stores, but sometimes the price is cost-prohibitive for families on a budget. However, Coloradans are lucky because there are lots of local alternatives.

Marc Short, owner of Double M Farm in Falcon, grows 64 types of pesticide-free vegetables. He sells most of his produce through the Community Supported Agriculture program; wherein residents buy “shares” and then receive a box of produce weekly throughout the season. But he normally has enough left over to sell to the general public on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. However, please call first: 641-1643.

Venetucci’s Farm Stand, on Highway 85, offers 100 varieties of vegetables and herbs. The farm is now owned by the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. Their goal is to “preserve and restore the natural environment” through ecologically sound agricultural practices. Their beef is grass fed, chickens are free-ranging, and their Heritage Breed pigs get to roam as if they lived in France. And Farm Stand prices aren’t bad either. Right now the Stand is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, with hours expanding as more produce becomes available. Go to: www.ppcf.org/Farm-Stand for more information.

Marteen van Zoeren, owner of Simla Food Locker, specializes in butchering, cutting, and curing meats for ranchers. He also sells meat from animals he raises. Although he feeds his cattle cracked corn the month before butchering, he said, “None of my beef is ever treated with hormones.” Plus, he sells “all natural grass-fed beef” supplied by local ranchers for customers who want it. The least expensive option is to buy a ½ or ¼ side of beef at $2.60 a pound for either variety. But smaller packages are available too. One pound packages of grass or grain hamburger meat sells for $2.50. Other grass-fed cuts are available on a hit and miss basis, so call first (541-2360) to find out what is available.

And check out other farmers around us too. Before Safeway came to town, they were the best source for fresh eggs, milk, and meat, and many are still in business. Ask around and you’ll find ranchers who are still raising food naturally, and would be happy to sell their surplus to you.

There’s a sign on Blaney Road that reads “Love your country, but never trust your government.” Cynical, but when it comes to our food supply the words ring true. So this July declare your independence from USDA-approved substances that aren’t healthy. Start eating what nature produces instead of what a giant industry, in cohorts with the Feds, deems as good enough. Because it’s not!

First published in The New Falcon Herald
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