Do you enjoy the thought of hormones? As a woman, I don’t care for hormones dancing through my body. As a mom, I worry about my little girl developing early because of hormones. As a breeder of those pretty black and white dairy cows you see on food labels, I have great respect for hormones.
My respect for hormones comes from watching a favorite cow giving birth to a beautiful newborn 90-pound calf. It’s amazing to witness the reproductive cycle, from the breeding of a cow to the birthing of a calf. It takes education and experience to understand the special care a 1,500-pound cow requires during her pregnancy. Hormones allow all of that to happen—they make it possible to breed more cattle. The end result? More milk and meat for you.
That’s why hormones in food don’t freak me out. It’s different when you see hormones in action on a daily basis while working with plants and animals. If you or your friends have had fertility assistance in having a family, such as in vitro fertilization, you benefited from the extensive reproductive work done in bovines, as cattle reproductive systems are remarkably similar to humans. Yet there is this fear of hormones from milk.
While I was at a party at one of my friend’s homes, another mom proudly exclaimed, “I’m really careful to give my kids hormone-free food.”
I tried not to cringe, asking her as kindly as I could, “Do you really believe your food is healthier?”
“Well, the label says ‘hormone free.’” Then I asked her if the breast milk she had fed her kids when they were babies was hormone free.
“No way, not with all the hormones raging through my body,” was her immediate answer. The light went on . . . and all I had to say was, “Cows have those same hormones. They always have. All of your food has hormones in it, regardless of label claims.”
Hormones are a natural part of our world—they are required for living. Merriam- Webster defines hormone as a product of living cells that circulates in body fluids (as blood) or sap and produces a specific, often stimulatory, effect on the activity of cells, usually remote from its point of origin.
In other words, hormones are required for life. Yet hormones have become akin to a nasty four-letter word in food. Why? They exist in every plant and animal you eat. Minerals like salt are the exception. You are consuming hormones at every meal unless you have a salt lollipop.
It’s a fascinating marketing case study to look at how fear is used to scare people into changing their food purchases. The hysteria around “hormones in dairy products” is a prime example. Labels are often used to convey a claim to alter the perception of the product in order for the manufacturer and retailer to sell more or sell at a higher price.
Food labels claiming “hormone free” are lies. All milk has hormones in it; it always has. It always will or it would not exist. Do not let marketing hysteria sway you otherwise.
Read more at Food Truths to Farm to Table and take a trip around the grocery store to be armed with 25 truths you urgently need to know about food so you can shop without guilt, confusion, or judgment. Learn the truths so you can recognize marketing and move on. A new book, Food Bullying, is expected late 2019.