Hormonal growth promotants in food

Meat producers sometimes use hormonal growth promotants to enhance meat production (growth) in livestock. Learn more about these compounds and how their use is controlled in New Zealand.

What are hormonal growth promotants?

The body produces hormones to stimulate cells or tissues into action. Synthetic versions of particular hormones — known as hormonal growth promotants (HGPs) — can be created in a lab and can be used to make livestock grow more quickly.

They may:

  • be exact copies of substances produced in animals
  • mimic the effects of natural hormones.

HGPs are used in many markets — including the United States and Australia. Certain overseas markets place restrictions on the import of products from animals treated with HGPs. To protect New Zealand's meat trade with these countries, HGP use is strictly controlled here.

Limits on use of hormonal growth promotants

HGPs are only approved for use in beef cattle in New Zealand under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act. The use of HGPs is also regulated under the Animal Products Notice: Regulated Control Scheme for Hormonal Growth Promotants. They have not been approved for use in dairy cows or other food–producing animals.

Farmers and veterinarians must follow specific requirements for implanting HGPs, tagging animals that have been implanted, and recording cattle movements. HGPs can only be administered by a veterinarian, a trained technician employed by a veterinarian, or under the direct supervision of either.

Low use of hormonal growth promotants in NZ

The use of HGPs in NZ has always been low and has declined over the last decade. In the 2015-2016 agricultural year, less than 0.0001% of beef cattle were treated with an HGP — down from 0.03% a decade ago.

How Hormone Growth Promotant (HGP) use is controlled

MPI regularly audits farms, veterinary practices and slaughter premises to check they are meeting HGP requirements — including being registered on a national database.

If implanting and tagging requirements aren't met, MPI may impose penalties or restrictions on the sale and supply for slaughter of the affected cattle.

Safety of hormonal growth promotants

Some consumers see HGPs as unnatural additives but there's no scientific evidence that foods produced using approved HGPs can make you ill or negatively affect your health.

No labelling requirements

Because MPI doesn't believe meat and meat products produced using approved HGPs pose a health risk, these products do not need to be specially labelled.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the use of hormonal growth promotants, email info@mpi.govt.nz.

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