The short answer is yes, but I’ll explain, I promise!
Unfortunately the idea of “hormone free” meat, like many other labeled claims commonly seen on meat sold at the grocery store, has become yet another buzzword and an incorrect one at that. But it’s not hard to see how it can easily be misconstrued; hormone free almost sounds healthier, especially when seen along side labels like “certified organic” or “all natural.”
But, here is the deal. There are also hormones in plants. Yup. Foods that contain estrogen mimicking hormones (aka: phytoestrogens) include fruits (plum, pear, apple grape berries), vegetables (beans, sprouts, cabbage, spinach, soybeans, grains, hops, garlic, onion,…), wine, tea, and they have been identified in a number of botanical dietary supplements. Studies on these compounds can be founds here on PUBMED.
In fact, the scientist in me struggles with “hormone free”.
But just like with nitrates, it’s important to remember that certain classes of hormones are naturally occurring – we have them in our bodies too! Hormones help with key bodily functions including reproduction, growth and development and being that they’re naturally occurring, to remove them entirely would inhibit survival of the animal.
However, in the case of beef, certain producers will inject additional hormones (like estrogens or androgens) into cattle before slaughter in order to boost the efforts of those naturally occurring hormones and contribute to bigger growth. This also, in theory, means that the cattle given additional hormones need less feed for finishing, leading to a reduction in costs for the producer. Though this practice is regulated by the FDA, studies have shown that there are potential risks for both cattle and consumer and for those reasons we choose to raise our cattle with no added hormones.
On the other hand, when it comes to the raising and selling of pork and poultry, the use of any kind of added growth hormones is strictly illegal as per the USDA. And any packaging with the labeling of “no added hormones” has to also have a disclaimer that says federal regulation prohibits the use of hormones in poultry or pork.
The takeaway here is that there will always be some level of naturally occurring hormones present in meat, whether it’s beef, pork or poultry. But when it comes to beef, look for the label of “no added hormones” and rest assured that all poultry and pork will always be hormone free, label or not.