Ask the Diva: Are Dairy Cows Given Hormones?
Nutrition Diva discusses the use of hormones on dairy cows and explains a statement made by the FDA.
Q. In your podcast on hormones in food, you state that dairy cattle are given hormones. But while researching this issue, I came across an article on the FDA website which states that “No steroid hormones are approved for growth purposes in dairy cattle, veal calves, pigs, or poultry.” How do I know which statement is true?
A. These two statements are actually not contradictory. The statement you found on the FDA website refers specifically to growth hormones. These are steroid hormones that are given to beef cattle to make them grow bigger and faster. As noted, this practice has not been approved for the other animals they list. As I explained in my podcast, conventionally raised dairy cows are often given hormones to increase their milk production. But the hormone they use for this purpose (bovine somatotropin or rBST) is not classified as a steroid or "growth" hormone. Organically raised dairy cattle are not given rBST, of course, but their bodies do produce bovine somatotropin naturally. Many non-organic dairies have also opted not to use rBST, in response to consumer demand.
Woman Drinking Milk photo from Shuttek