The steroids given to cattle essentially help them grow fatter and faster. The steers are fed estrogen laced hormones to increase growth faster. More complex hormones of progestin and estrogen are given to the cows for similar reasons.
The practice of giving steroids to the cattle started in the 1950’s where almost two-thirds of the cattle in the United States were being injected with growth-promoting hormones. By giving steroids to their cattle, farmers have the ability to make almost 400% return on their investment – this is a compelling figure for anyone who only looks at making profits in this industry.
The main issue that surrounds steroid-use in cattle is the unprecedented release of such hormones into the environment and of course the damage this can cause people who consume beef on a regular basis.
The first issue is that of the environment being polluted by such steroids that are inherently found in cattle waste. This waste gets into the soil and rivers and may have an adverse effect on plants and fish.
There is some research being conducted on the effects of the hormone-induced cattle being consumed by humans. One such research by Swan et al. in 2007, studied hundreds of pregnant women who had a high consumption of beef and who were carrying male infants. They measured the sperm count of the male children in adulthood and found that about 18% of these males had a sperm count lower than World Health Organization (WHO) standards – causing infertility.
Since the hormones given to cows are a form of birth-control, the effect on women is mainly a hormone-imbalance, which can cause enlargement of breasts and possibly an adverse effect on overall human health.