Ractopamine: It’s What’s for Dinner


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Effects on the Animals

Ractopamine is given to pigs, turkey, and cattle to increase leanness and weight. Photo by: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture

So if humans have all these problems associated with ractopamine, what is happening to the animals that are being fed this drug?

In a study published in the Journal of Animal Science, when scientists studied the effects of ractopamine in pigs over a four week period, they found that pigs had higher heart rates, higher catecholamine ( a hormone that is produced during times of stress) and were harder to handle, which could lead to more stress during transport of the pigs.

According to NBC News, USDA meat inspectors found that ractopamine has increased the number of lame pigs, pigs that cannot walk into the slaughter house as well as other adverse reactions. The USDA requested that the drug manufacture add a warning label to ractopamine in 2002.

So is Ractopamine Safe?

Ractopamine has been linked to cardiovascular effects, behavioral changes, and nervousness in humans and pigs. So why does the United States allow ractopamine? Good question. The U.S. pork industry says that ractopamine is safe and told Consumer Reports, “countries that have banned pork or meat from animals fed ractopamine are doing it to protect their domestic pork industries. This is not about food safety.”  The European Union, however, explains that they have banned this drug because they cannot determine any safe levels in regards to the studies on ractopamine. So, is ractopamine safe or not? I’ll let you decide.


Consumer Reports. What’s in that pork? (2013). Accessed March 12, 2013.

Reuters. U.S. presses Russia to immediately lift meat trade ban. ( 2013). Accessed March 12, 2013.

European Commission. Food Safety – CODEX Alimentarius: statement by the EU on ractopamine. (2012). Accessed March 13, 2013.

National Library of Medicine. Ractopamine. (2006). Accessed March 12, 2013.

NBC News. Dispute over drug in feed limiting U.S. meat exports. (2012). Accessed March 13, 2013.

Marchant-Forde, J.N., Lay, D.C., Pajor, E.A., et al. The effects of ractopamine on the behavior and physiology of finishing pigs. (2003). Journal of Animal Science. February 2003 vol 81 no. 2 416-422. Accessed March 13, 2013.

World Health Organization. WHO Food Additive Series 53: Ractopamine. (2009). Accessed March 12, 2013.

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