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December 1, 2010

"rBST Free" Horomones in Milk, What's the Difference?

We as consumers are bombarded on a daily basis regarding the safety of the food we consume.  Is coffee bad for you?  Is chocolate bad for you?  Beef; grass fed, natural or feed lot finished, does it make a difference in how healthy the product is?  And then there's MILK.  This wonderfully wholesome product get's the worst of the backlash {in my opinion}.  There are many avenues I could touch on relating to misconceptions of milk to share with you, but today, it's hormones - bST and rbST- which is the synthetic type.

Yes, milk does contain hormones, bST- Bovine Somatotropin, which is a natural hormone milk also contains other hormones, one of which is estrogen. Look what else contains estrogen and how much.  {I didn't realize veggies contain that many more nanograms of estrogen than milk}

A 3 oz. serving of milk contains 11 nanograms of estrogen {both non-rBST and rBST milk}.
Raw peas have 454 nanograms of estrogen.
Raw cabbage has 2,700 nanograms of estrogen.
A 4 oz. serving of implanted beef has 1.6 nanograms of estrogen.
{nanograms are a small measurement} {1}


The estrogen tables above are from The Science of Agriculture - A Safe Food Supply

Here are some common questions regarding bST {below information was borrowed from Cornell University}:

What are protein Hormones?

All protein hormones, including ST, are made from naturally occurring amino acids that are derived from the digestion of dietary protein. BST contains 191 amino acids and shares a high degree of amino acid sequence similarity in the range of 90% with somatotropins from other farm animals. Although the amino acid sequence is quite similar among farm animals, there are unique differences when comparisons are made with human ST. For example, the amino acid sequence of hST differs by approximately 35% from that of bST. Because of this, bST is not active in humans even if it is injected into the bloodstream. This is an important attribute assuring its safety for the consumer.

Consumers form perceptions about a food’s safety based either on what they hear from scientists or alternatively from activists whose ideas are not supported by valid scientific findings. From a scientific viewpoint, bST is efficacious and safe. {Cornell University} {2}

Are there increased levels of bST in milk from cows supplemented with bST?
No. BST is normally found in cows' milk, and many studies have shown that bST supplementation does not affect the concentration of bST in milk.

Can bST be absorbed into the bloodstream of humans?
No. All proteins in the diet (including bST) are digested into individual amino acids and peptide fragments in the stomach and small intestine. The digestion process destroys the hormonal activity of all dietary proteins. Numerous studies reviewed in this report support the conclusion that bST is not orally active.

Is milk from bST‑supplemented {rbST} cows safe for children and adults?
Yes. As a part of the approval process, FDA has concluded, based on convincing evidence, that milk from bST‑supplemented cows is safe for humans and is similar compositionally and nutritionally to ordinary milk.

Does consuming milk from bST‑supplemented cows increase the risk of developing allergies?
No. Milk from bST‑supplemented cows is the same as milk from non‑supplemented cows. Individuals who were not allergic to milk products prior to the use of bST will not be allergic to milk from bST‑supplemented cows.

As consumers, we want to know and have the right to know what we are buying but when I see labels on milk saying "rBST free" I think it should also state that scientifically, there is no significant difference between non-rBST and rBST milk.....give us the information in it's entirety.  I think when products are labeled "rbST Free", it gives the impression that products not labeled this way are inferior and in turn, can make the consumer feel guilty about purchasing a perfectly safe, wholesome and great tasting product. 

If you've been a frequent reader here, you then know that we do not supplement our cows with rBST, as we don't see the need for it. 

To read the entire report on facts of rbST, I've provided the links below:

{2} Cornell University report reagarding facts of rbST.
{1} Dr. Gary Neubauer, veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health.

How do you feel when you see these types of labels on products?  Do you feel they're misleading? 

Happy Wednesday!

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crystal.cattle said...

Awesome article. I always new and had heard it in many presentations that there are more hormones in vegetables than in milk or beef. I am very glad that you found those graphs.

Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

I have been drinking organic milk and buying only dairy products that do NOT contain rbST for the past seven years- When I first moved from Canada to the US- I was shocked to learn that rbSt was banned in Canada and many other countries but not in the US. I felt that if my home and native land didn't see this hormone fit for it's population then I would follow that example.

Nancy Grossi ~ Churned In Cali ~ The Wife of a Dairyman said...

Thanks Crystal! The great thing about where we live are the choices we have about what we eat and drink. It's just difficult, sometimes finding all the correct information and facts to then base our own educated opinion:)

Samantha said...

Nice post Nancy. I felt kind of silly because I only recently learned that many vegetables have more estrogen than many animal products. In fact, I never gave much thought to estrogen levels in plants at all. This is a great thing to point out because I have heard many a consumer say that organic milk is better than non organic because of the hormone levels. I'm probably going to have to share this info with my classes...thanks!

Nancy Grossi ~ Churned In Cali ~ The Wife of a Dairyman said...

@Ren, Canada employs supply management programs which gives the dairy farmer a quota on how much milk a dairy can produce. So something like supplementing with rbST in Canada wouldn't be neccessary.

Here are the other countries that rbST is used in according to Cornell at the date of writing the document:

Has bST been approved for use in other countries?

Yes, at this writing bST has been approved for commercial use in Brazil, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, The Czech Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, the Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

The Dairy Mom said...

Excellent post! You are right, product labels can be so misleading. Many people say the buy organic milk because "it doesn't contain antibiotics or hormones". The fact is no milk contains antibiotics and all milk contains the same small amount of hormones. I wish all consumers would read your post!

Carol Lawrence And Stacy Toten said...

Great article. I'm glad your one of the farmers that doesn't see a need to supplement the cows with rbST.
What we need to get out of the cows milk is the pesticides.

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

This was very very very informative. Thank you so much! You have no idea how happy I am that I found your blog.

Nancy Grossi ~ Churned In Cali ~ The Wife of a Dairyman said...

@Carol & Stacy, Thank you! And, pesticides are not a health concern in any U.S. milk products. Because they are found in the water and soil, extremely low levels of pesticides can be found in all foods – organic and conventional. But, thorough FDA and USDA testing shows that milk ranks among the lowest of all agriculture products in detectable residues. Any levels in milk have been well within U.S. and international safety protection standards.

Katie said...

Nancy, you are a wonderful educator! Thank you for the stats and visual graphs. I am going to share this with some friends on Facebook. Would you be willing to post on KACF? Great job again.
Winter greetings from the snowy plains!

Mary said...

Thanks. It is also management intensive compared to other strategies that can assure good productivity of our cows. Furthermore, our healthcare providers relish the availability of recombinant DNA therapy. This is the same technology that gives us Humulin insulin which is an insulin product from human cells instead of beef and pork.