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JBS USA and Tyson stop using ractopamine

Two major US pork producers have stopped the use of the feed additive ractopamine, which is banned in China, EU nations and many other countries. JBS USA and Tyson Food have joined Smithfield to better position themselves to fill increased demand for pork in China.

Leaders at 2 more US pork producers have announced recently that they are removing ractopamine from production. Ractopamine is a growth-promoting feed additive which is banned in over 160 countries, including EU countries, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. This will better position these firms to export pork to China, where pork demand has grown significantly due to the devastating impact of African Swine Fever (ASF) on pig production there.

Ractopamine is a growth-promoting feed additive which is banned in over 160 countries. Illustration: Shutterstock
Ractopamine is a growth-promoting feed additive which is banned in over 160 countries. Illustration: Shutterstock

One of the world’s largest pork producers

JBS USA is one of these firms. It is based in the state of Colorado and sells pork under brands such as Swift and Swift Premium. It is owned by JBS-SA of Brazil, one of the world’s largest producers of pork, beef and chicken products.

The company had already removed ractopamine from its own production in August 2018, and is now prohibiting its contract farms from using it. JBS USA leaders told Reuters news agency that they are confident “this decision will provide long-term benefits to our producer partners and our industry by ensuring US pork products are able to compete fairly in the international marketplace.”

Tyson Foods banning ractopamine by 2020

Another of these firms, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, will ban the use of ractopamine by its contract farmers by early February 2020. Its brands include Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park and State Fair.

Previously, Tyson and JBS both had a production line for domestic sales in which ractopamine was allowed in pig diets, and another without it for export to countries that have banned the substance.

The North American pork industry has been the political football of the year

Smithfield stopping ractopamine use in 2018

In 2018, Smithfield Foods already stopped feeding ractopamine in its own and contract pigs. It’s based in Virginia, and its brands include Gwaltney, Farmer John, Kretschmar, Farmland and Cook’s. In its 2018 ‘Sustainability Report’, the firm states that they banned the additive specifically to meet export demand in nations that do not allow its use.

“Several Smithfield Foods plants now produce meat from pigs that have never received ractopamine,” the firm stated in the 2018 Report. “All pigs raised on company-owned and contract farms do not receive ractopamine. We still have facilities that receive pigs from other suppliers that use this product.”

Details on ractopamine

Ractopamine is fed to promote growth and leanness, and is considered safe for human consumption in e.g. the USA, Japan and South Korea. The feed additive is correlated with adverse effects including hyperactivity, trembling and broken limbs. The metabolic fate of ractopamine hydrochloride is noted to be similar in pigs, cattle, lab animals and humans.

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