What are the health and environmental risks involved when four out of five animals are routinely given antibiotics (regardless of whether they’re sick) and one out of five dairy cows are stimulated with hormones to produce more milk?
Growing evidence of antibiotic resistance due to routine use of antibiotics in animal feed – including for dairy cows – is increasingly worrisome for health policy makers as well as individual consumers. The routine use of hormones such as rBGH for milk stimulation also adds to the worry, because of limited evidence regarding long-term effects on human health.
Conscious consumers looking for alternatives to getting their protein and calcium needs from dairy can look to Isagenix, which provides whey and milk protein primarily from New Zealand. The use of rBGH is not allowed for use in dairy cows from New Zealand nor do the farmers in the country routinely use antibiotics (only if dairy cows are sick; which is not often due to the optimal conditions).
Antibiotics have played an important part in protecting human health—saving millions of lives since the 1940s—but it’s the inappropriate use by the food animal industry that’s threatening their effectiveness and the health of meat and dairy consumers. After studies showed that antibiotics caused animals to gain weight more efficiently and grow at a faster rate, the use of antibiotics has become standard. Instead of treating sick animals with antibiotics simply to fend off bacteria, farmers are using antibiotics to increase production and therefore increase profit.
In today’s industrial farms, antibiotics are not only used to make the animals grow bigger, but also to offset the unsanitary conditions in which the animals are raised (1). Modern farms are a haven for germs and disease with animals living in close confinement, often standing or laying in their own excrement. These conditions can put the cattle under continuous stress, which may weaken their immune systems and render them susceptible for infection.
A 2009 report from the FDA estimated that antibiotics fed to animals accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotic use in the United States, meaning that only about 20 percent of antibiotics are actually used for treating infections in humans (2). The result is that bacteria from industrial animal farms eventually become antibiotic resistant, which can then be transmitted to humans via food, the environment (air, soil, water), or by direct animal-human contact (3).
A frightening example of this is MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. These staph bacteria include several strains that most of us normally carry, yet don’t currently present any threat to health. However, some strains have evolved to withstand antibiotics and serious infections can lead to serious health problems. Though MRSA has been carried in both humans and animals for some time, researchers have more recently found resistant MRSA are transferred between humans and animals (4).
As if the threat of antibiotic resistance weren’t enough, the hormones that the animals are routinely given could also pose risk to the environment and human and animal health. It’s estimated that 80 percent of all feedlot cattle in the United States are injected with hormones to speed up their growth and, in the case of dairy cows, increase milk production. A 2007 government study projected that the synthetically-made growth hormone rBGH is given to about one in every five dairy cows (5;6).
The “beef” that some medical researchers have with the routine use of hormones, both artificial and natural, is that some reports have deemed them potentially harmful to human health. The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health (SCVPH) has reported that six hormones used in beef production, including three natural and three artificial, may potentially pose a threat to human health (7).
The issue that the committee and others have questioned is the possibility that hormone residues in the meat of these animals may disrupt hormone balance in humans that could lead to chronic health problems. As with antibiotics, these hormones can also make their way into the environment by leaking from manure and polluting water and soil.
Because of limited research on hormone use in dairy cows, opponents are skeptical that rBGH has been properly tested and consequently may pose risk to humans and the environment. These risks build upon the already known consequences of industrial farm methods such as feeding grains to cows on feedlots in place of allowing animals to graze on their natural diets of grass on the pasture.
The New Zealand Whey
Choosing healthy, environmentally friendly dairy products are those that come from sources supporting the natural diet and lifestyle of dairy cows. Isagenix primarily uses dairy protein including whey and milk protein concentrate from New Zealand where standards remain high.
Dairy cows on New Zealand farms are free to feed on spacious pasture in a temperate climate and the pristine environment that the country naturally provides. Research has shown that when cows are fed their natural diet of grasses in this way, it also keeps them healthier in comparison to grain-fed cows on feedlots. The farmers’ milking process is also more humane and natural where the cows are milked only according to season (rather than being artificially impregnated constantly to maximize profits).
What’s more, the dairy cows from New Zealand are not given any hormones or antibiotics like other industrialized counterparts to increase growth and milk production. To further increase the quality, Isagenix only uses undenatured whey and milk protein to protect the protein’s natural flavor, as well as its naturally occurring fragile, biologically active peptides.
Don’t take our word for it—taste and feel the difference of the high quality of Isagenix undenatured protein for yourself.
Update: Isagenix continues to source our dairy proteins (including whey protein) from New Zealand dairy farmers who raise their cows on pasture and don’t use routine antibiotics or hormones. However, to meet the demands of astounding Isagenix growth, we have also sought other suppliers in Australia and the U.S. who meet the same standards for dairy protein. While not “USDA certified organic” due to supplier limitations, we believe that our dairy protein quality exceeds most organic standards. As with any of our ingredients, our dairy proteins are always rigorously tested for their quality and to be sure they are safe. Rigorous testing is performed for microbial activity, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals. Safety and quality are our highest priority.
- Boyd, W. Making meat: science, technology, and American meat production. Technology and Culture, 2001; 42(4), 631-664.
- United States Food and Drug Administration. Summary report on antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals. 2009; Department of Health and Human Services.
- Graham, J. P. et al. The animal-human interface and infectious disease in industrial food animal production: Rethinking biosecurity and biocontainment. 2008; Public Health Reports, 123(3), 282-299.
- Verkade E, Kluytmans J. Livestock-associated Staphylococcus aureus CC398: Animal reservoirs and human infections. Infect Genet Evol 2013.
- Raloff, J. Hormones: Here’s the beef – environmental concerns reemerge over steroids given to livestock. 2002; Science News, 161(1).
- USDA, Veterinary Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Dairy 2007 part i: Reference of dairy cattle health and management practices in the United States, 2007.
- European commission, Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health. Assessment of potential risks to human health from hormone residues in bovine meat and meat products. 1999.