Hormel has become the latest large pork processor to announce its intention to eliminate the processing of animals fed with ractopamine, a growth enhancing feed supplement commonly given to feeder pigs in the US for over a decade. The supplement stimulates late development gains as animals approach finished weights.
Since its broad introduction in the United States where it is approved as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, many countries expressed health concerns over the use of the additive, and most banned the import of meat from animals fed with it. Included within the list of the countries with such bans are such major food consumer markets as China, Russia, and the European Union. Japan, South Korea, New Zealand deem it safe, and NAFTA and the pending successor USMCA allows its free use and consumption within Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
The restrictions on ractopamine use have proved especially difficult to overcome for American producers in the world marketplace. Meats from animals not fed with the supplement easily test positive if the carcasses were processed at plants where animals to which ractopamine was fed were previously handled.
Elimination of use of ractopamine will no doubt result in either a bit smaller carcass weights at slaughter, or a greater value of production inputs to be overcome by sales price, but should result in greater market access for American pork.
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