Chew On This

Food Facts


Chew on This!

About 870 million people worldwide don’t get enough food.1

Hunger kills more people worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.2

Hunger isn’t just a problem in Third World countries. In San Diego, 1 in 4 kids get their only decent meal at school. In Kansas City, it’s 1 in 5. In Boston, 1 in 8.3,4,5

Every day, 25,000 people die from starvation and malnutrition. That’s like 132 Boeing 727 jets filled with people falling out of the sky every day.6

According to the United Nations, by the year 2050, the global population will be 9 billion. 
We will need 70 percent more food and 70 percent of that food will have to come from 
efficiency-enhancing technology.7,8,9


Chew on This!

Because of technology, agriculture is becoming more and more efficient. For example: the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk has decreased by 63 percent since 1944. One cow produces as much milk today as five cows did back in 1944.2

It takes 34 percent less land and 14 percent less water to produce one pound of beef today than 
it did in 1977.2

If the entire U.S. population adopted the Meatless Mondays concept and eschewed red meat and dairy for one day per week, that would reduce the total U.S. carbon footprint by just .44 percent.10

According to EPA data, all of agriculture contributes 7 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, while livestock production accounts for just 3 percent. By contrast, transportation accounts for 26 percent.11

A Washington State University study found that since 1977 livestock production advances have resulted in
13 percent more beef with 13 percent fewer animals. It also found that modern beef production requires
20 percent less feed.12

In 2011, researchers from the University of California-Davis studied two groups of cattle in a feedlot setting. One group utilized modern technology while the other did not. The first group generated 31 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than those without hormone implants or feed additives.12

Washington State University research shows that pound-for-pound, beef produced with grain produces significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than grass-fed beef. A grain diet is more easily digestible than
the cellulose fibers of grass, producing less methane.12

The efficiency, and thus environmental impact, of livestock production varies greatly, even in top-producing countries. Brazilian beef cattle first calve at 4 years of age, only 67 percent of cows calve each year, and beef animals take 3 years to reach slaughter weight. In the U.S., those numbers are 2 years, 91 percent and 15 months respectively.13

Research shows that achievable improvements in the efficiency of manure management in livestock production and fertilizer application in agriculture would have a more significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions than reducing meat consumption.14

If all of the beef in the U.S. were grass-fed, we would need an additional 64.6 million cows, 131 million acres of land, and 1,700-billion liters of water to produce the same amount of beef as was produced in 2010.15

If all of the beef in the U.S. were grass-fed, these cows would generate an additional 135 million tons of carbon, which would be like adding 26.6 million cars to the road every year.15

Using more natural resources to produce the same amount of beef increases the economic and environmental pressures on farmers and ranchers, ultimately causing them to produce less. Another way to look at this: removing access to the productivity-enhancing technologies would be the equivalent to imposing an 8.2 percent tax on U.S. beef farmers and ranchers.16

If less U.S. beef were available, other countries would produce more, negatively impacting the environment. If productivity-enhancing technologies were eliminated from U.S. beef production, within 15 years …Brazil would increase its production by 24 percent, lose 16.9 million acres of forest and release 2.1 billion additional metric tons of CO2eq into the atmosphere.16

Without productivity-enhancing technologies in beef production, U.S. farmers and ranchers would need to raise 10 million more cattle and harvest 3 million more to produce the same amount of beef currently available. This would take an additional 81 million tons of feed, 17 million acres of land and 138 billion gallons of water.16

If all the finishing pigs in the U.S. were fed ractopamine, a feed additive that promotes lean meat growth, at 4.9 grams/ton, the reduction in emissions would be equivalent to removing 360,000 cars off the road for a year.17

In the past 50 years, the carbon footprint per pound of dressed pig carcass has been reduced 35 percent, from 3.8 kilogram/ CO2eq to 2.5 kilogram/ CO2eq today.17

Comparing production and consumption of a food commodity, such as pork, you get a nation’s “self sufficiency” ratio. Countries that have approved the use of the feed additive ractopamine for swine production have higher self-sufficiency ratios and net pork exports than countries that have not.17

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Food Facts

Chew on This!

Less than two percent of Americans farm for a living. So many people lack knowledge about where their food comes from and how it’s produced.18

All fresh meat purchased in the grocery store is “all natural,” meaning it contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed.19

There’s no nutritional difference between milk labeled organic and milk produced conventionally.20

According to a USDA study, there are no nutritional benefits to free-range eggs when compared 
traditional eggs.21

A Stanford University study and others have shown no nutritional benefits to eating organic or 
all-natural foods compared to traditional meats, fruits and vegetables.22

It’s illegal to use added growth hormones in poultry production.23

The FDA applies numerous human food safety studies to ensure the safety of all antibiotics used 
food animal production.24

All beef cattle spend most of their lives eating grass. “Grain fed” cattle are simply moved to a feedlot for the last three to six months, where they eat a high-energy grain diet.25

Grass-fed and grain-fed beef have similar nutritional value. For example: though grass-fed beef is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, the difference is minute, as neither is a significant source of Omega 3s.26

Beef from grass-fed and grain-fed cattle is equally safe. Studies show no difference in the prevalence of E. coli in live animals fed a variety of diets.25

Salmonella on fresh pork has declined by 63 percent since 2000, while Salmonella on chicken has declined by 21 percent since 2000. Listeria has also declined markedly on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. Between 2000 and 2009, Listeria monocytogenes declined 74 percent.27

Administration of hormones to animals to milk production or growth rates has only a very small impact on the levels of hormones in meat and milk. The amounts of estrogens (and other hormones) in meat and milk are miniscule when you consider how much is produced by the human body every day.28

A woman would have to consume 16,666 3-ounce servings of beef a day to consume the same amount of estrogen as in a low-dose birth control pill.10

One 8-ounce serving of cabbage contains 5,411 nanograms of estrogen, over 1,000 times more estrogen than in the same-size steak from a steer given a growth-promoting hormone implant.29

The FDA-approved synthetic hormone rbST allows cows to produce more milk than they would be able to without it. Extensive testing shows no difference between milk from cows that have received rbST and cows that have not received it.30

Ractopamine, an FDA-approved feed additive that helps animals gain lean meat rather than fat, has been affirmed as safe by more than 300 studies and nearly 30 regulatory agencies worldwide, including the World Health Organization.17

Few industries are as regulated and inspected as meat and poultry plants. U.S. meatpacking plants
are inspected continuously. Plants that process meat or poultry, but do not handle live animals, are
inspected daily.31

In 2000 Denmark banned the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock production (for disease prevention and growth promotion). However, this has not led to a substantial impact on the incidence of antibiotic-resistant food-borne illness in humans.32

Historically, as societies emerge from poverty, they begin to consume animal-source foods. Meat, milk and eggs provide nutrients critical for brain and muscle development and disease prevention.33

Lack of calories and essential nutrients hinders mental and physical development, weakens the immune system and increases mortality, especially among women and children.33

Improving nutrition increases productivity, stimulates economic growth and strengthens society as a whole. Access to nutrient-dense animal-source foods helps societies reach their full potential.33

Animal products provide a greater quantity and quality of protein than plant products, according to the
USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report. Meat, milk and eggs also provide bioavailable micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins A, D and B12. These nutrients are often found to be deficient in malnourished people.33

Babies whose mothers receive enough iron during pregnancy are born with iron stores that help mitigate
the risks of poorer cognitive, motor, social-emotional and neurophysiologic development in the short- and
long-term. WHO estimates that eradicating iron deficiency could improve national productivity levels by as
much as 20 percent.33

High-quality dietary protein contributes to weight loss and maintains a “balanced diet”. Protein may be the
single most important nutrient influencing metabolic rate. Dietary protein positively impacts several critical
body-weight influencers, including satiety and body composition.33

Innovations in animal production have made it possible to produce more animal source foods from fewer animals, As a result, the nutritional needs of more people can be met with the same resources.33

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06/07/2013 •
Worried About Hormones?
Bruce Treffer, UNL Extension Educator

There are a lot of concerns and mixed messages about
hormones in beef. There are a few things to keep in mind the
next time you hear that beef contains too many hormones.

All multi-cellular organisms contain hormones. That’s true for animals and vegetables, but some meat production systems
use hormone implants which cause the meat to have slightly more hormones than the non-implanted. True in beef, but not
in pork or chicken as federal law does not permit the use of hormones in raising hogs or chickens. Implants are used to increase efficiency (i.e. feed conversion to muscle more quickly) or more muscle from less feed more quickly, which keeps prices
down and reduces the environmental impact of production.

In beef, the implanted animals will produce meat that contains slightly more of the hormone estrogen
(1.9 versus 1.3 nanograms per 3 ounce serving - which is about the size of a deck of cards). Is that
extra estrogen going to cause problems? Consider the facts. When hormones are eaten, they are
digested, broken down and largely neutralized, so they don’t act as hormones anymore. Even if they
did, the 1.9 nanograms of estrogen in implanted beef seems miniscule when we consider that a child’s
body produces around 50,000 nanograms of estrogen per day. An adult female (non-pregnant) will
produce 480,000 nanograms of estrogen per day on its own.

The 1.9 nanograms of estrogen in implanted beef is also miniscule compared to 225 nanograms of estrogen in potatoes, 340 nanograms of estrogen in peas, 520 nanograms of estrogen in ice cream, 2,000 nanograms of estrogen in cabbage, 11,250 nanograms of estrogen in soy milk, and 170,000 nanograms of estrogen in soybean oil… all based on a 3 ounce serving size. One birth control pill contains 35,000 nanograms of estrogen. It may be surprising to learn that there are more hormones in commonly eaten food products than there are in beef ( or!

So why do kids seem to be growing faster and reaching puberty earlier? Genetics play a role, but hormones make far less sense than calories consumed and increased levels of body fat (i.e., childhood obesity). According to Dr. Frank Biro of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, “BMI (body mass index) is, we found, the biggest single factor for the onset of puberty.” It is easy to blame hormones and sometimes just meat for that matter, or food in general for health problems because the general public is removed from actual food production and processing. It is human nature to be fearful of things we aren’t familiar with or that we don’t fully understand. It is always advisable to do some research and make inquiries yourself before believing everything you hear or read. If misinformation and half-truths are repeated often enough, and in sinister enough media campaign voices, they can take on a life of their own devoid of science or truth.

For more UNL Beef information go to

Photo courtesy of Troy Walz.


1FAO Media Centre: Globally Almost 870 Million Are Chronically Undernourished. Data pulled 1/14/2013.

2Simmons, Jeff. Making Safe, Affordable and Abundant Food A Global Reality (2011). Range Beef Cow Symposium. Paper 300.

3Feeding America San Diego. Data pulled 12/11/2012.

4Harvesters: the Community Food Network. Data pulled 12/11/2012.

5Feeding America: Child Food Insecurity in the United States. Data pulled 12/11/2012.

6Wikipedia: Boeing 727. Data pulled 1/14/2013.

7Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies.

8FAO report, How to Feed the World in 2050.

9World Livestock Industry: Livestock in Food Security ABCs of Food: B is for Beef. 5/30/2013

11Meat Mythcrushers. Data pulled 9/4/2013.

12Meat Mythcrushers. Data pulled 9/4/2013.
  small-local-operations.html Can We Please Have Calls for Moderating Meat Consumption…in Moderation? 9/12/2013 All Aboard the “Eat Less Meat” Bandwagon. 4/13/2012 Food for Thought Blog Grass-fed versus Corn-fed Beef: What’s the Difference? 5/25/2011

16Capper, J.L., D.H. Hayes. 2012. The Environmental and Economic Impact of Removing Growth-Enhancing Technologies from United States
  Beef Production. Journal of Animal Science 90(8).

17Elanco Animal Health. Ractopamine: Inside the Facts. 2013.

18United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture: About Us. Data pulled on 1/4/2013.

19United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service: Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms. Data pulled 1/14/2013.

20National Dairy Council Organic Milk FAQs. Data pulled on 1/4/2013.

21Time: Organic, Cage-Free Eggs No Healthier Than Factory. Data pulled 1/14/2013.,8599,2002334,00.html

22Stanford University School of Medicine: Little Evidence of Health Benefits from Organic Foods, Stanford Study Finds. Data pulled 1/14/2013.

23The University of Georgia: Poultry Housing Tips, Seven Reasons Why Chickens Are Not Fed Hormones.

24Animal Health Institute: Animal Antibiotics: Keeping Animal Healthy and Our Food Safe.

25Meat Mythcrushers. Data pulled 9/4/2013. Food for Thought Blog. Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed? Expert says, “Eat whatever you like.” 6/9/2011.

27Meat Mythcrushers. Data pulled 9/4/2013. Food for Thought Blog. Hormone Confusion: Cow Milk vs. Human Breast Milk. 6/13/2012 Putting Beef Hormones into Context. 2/13/2013. Food for Thought Blog. Consumer Question: Are Hormones in My Milk and Meat Making My Kids Bigger? 3/10/2011

31Meat Mythcrushers. Data pulled 9/4/2013.

32Meat Mythcrushers. Data pulled 9/4/2013.

33William Weldon, Ph.D., Vice President Research and Development, Elanco Animal Health, and Susan Finn, Ph.D, RD, FADA.
  Enriching People’s Lives: A 2013 Report on the Importance of Animal Source Foods.

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