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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies

A call for information

Posted by Travis Meteer -

A week ago today I received an email that alerted me that Tyson Foods, a major packer in the beef industry, had decided to stop accepting cattle fed Zilmax. I was at the state fair at the time, and thus I had the opportunity to hear the response from many cattlemen and cattle feeders in IL. First, I will clarify what product I am talking about.

What is Zilmax?

Zilmax, zilpaterol, is a beta-agonist feed ingredient that helps cattle utilize the food they are eating to make more muscle instead of fat. Zilmax has been proven safe for humans and animals and is FDA approved. Zilmax uses receptor pathways that are naturally occurring in the animal and the product helps encourage nutrient use devoted to muscle synthesis and retention instead of fat.

Reaction of IL producers

I quickly found the resounding reaction was that science had not won. Producers were disappointed to hear that a tool that had been approved after vast amounts of research and FDA approval had been removed from their toolbox if they wanted to continue to market with Tyson Foods.

Seven days later, I have had some time to digest the announcement and listen to more opinions on the stance that Tyson Foods has taken. First, we live in a great land where businesses have the freedom to make decisions that are perceived best for their business. I find it encouraging that Tyson is trying to resolve issues that they feel could be a challenge for their business and inevitably the beef business. There is no doubt this will spur more research into the use of Zilmax. For someone that has a hand in research, I feel that we can never know too much, and that continuing to investigate the effects of feeding beta-agonists is our job as researchers.

Tyson Foods made it clear that there is no issue with food safety. I can confidently say that the beef that we produce in the USA is the safest of any in the world. I enjoyed a steak last night while thinking this topic over and wow, was it a great eating experience. Other packers are confident in Zilmax and besides Tyson Foods, packers are accepting cattle fed Zilmax. It is a great tool for helping beef producers feed your family and mine. Research has proven its safety and efficiency advantages, and thus until research can prove otherwise I hope that we continue to look to science and peer-reviewed research when making decisions about what we choose to buy.

This is just another signal to producers that we must be vocal and transparent with our production practices. Our consumer demands knowledge of how their food was raised and cared for. Now is a great time to share your story and your commitment to providing the same product to the consumer that you put on your own plate.



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