Last Thursday market traders noticed cattle prices rise sharply. It was in response to news that Tyson Foods - a major meatpacker - quietly had sent letters to cattle feedlots indicating Tyson would no longer buy cows fed Zilmax. That's a supplement designed to bulk up cows before slaughter.
Tyson cited the health of animals as reason for the change. They said experts have anecdotal evidence of cows becoming lame as a side effect of the growth-inducing drug. Such supplements are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If market prices are up on the news, consumers can expect supermarket prices to rise, too. Industry watchers are calling this a game-changer. Some also question Tyson's true motivation.
Is it because they're trying to gain access to foreign markets that ban growth hormones? Is the export market becoming more important than domestic shoppers for agriculture companies? Will other meatpackers follow suit? Will feedlots be forced to halt using Zilmax and similar drugs?
Mike Callicrate , Cattle producer based in St. Francis, Kansas; Proprietor of Ranch Foods Direct which markets farm to table beef
Tom Talbot, Cattle producer and Veterinarian from Bishop, California; Past Chairman, Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Dennis Smith, Livestock Industry Analyst and Commodities Broker, Archer Financial Services