Ractopamine’s Impacts on Animal Welfare and Human Health

Posted by Daniel Lutz, ALDF's Litigation Fellow on December 21, 2012

This week, ALDF joined forces with Center for Food Safety (CFS) to petition the FDA to rethink its mistaken approval of high levels of the dangerous animal drug ractopamine.

On the factory farm, ractopamine is mixed into animal feed to make leaner meat. Its actual effects run the gamut in bringing about suffering. Ractopamine is known to cause tremors, chronically elevated heart rates, broken limbs, higher risks of hoof lesions, and death in farm animals. Scientists associate the drug with both non-ambulatory (“downer”) and over-excited behavior. The effects are no small matter: 60 to 80 percent of U.S. pigs are treated with ractopamine, and the FDA has received over 160,000 reports of pig suffering since the drug was approved in 1999.

ALDF’s petition shines a light into the shadowy overlap between human health and animal welfare threats in food production. Ractopamine is added to cattle, pig and turkey feed for several weeks before the slaughterhouse. Application of the drug for any longer before slaughter risks putting the animals in a condition unsuitable for even the low standards of factory meat. Because ractopamine operates within animal muscles, its residues remain locked into the meat.

Foreign markets, such as the European Union, China, and most recently Russia, have banned imports of meat with any traces of ractopamine residue. Their consumers don’t want to taste the tremors. By petitioning the FDA to significantly lower allowable levels of ractopamine use, ALDF and CFS have pushed the U.S. to follow suit.

More Information


One thought on “Ractopamine’s Impacts on Animal Welfare and Human Health

  1. Santina says:

    Is there no limit or control over these applications, for any reason, “leaner meat” why and for what purpose, maybe if you didn’t contain the animals in factory farms, they could naturally be active and lean, lets get our head around this, we have taken there way of life and natural behavior away, all for more sales. This is not only affecting the animals, but as humans consuming the meat. How do we recognize this allowable practice, will the death of animals obviously be the death of human. This needs to be stopped. Now that all of my friends and their friends and so on know things will change in our buying habits.