If you’ve never heard of ractopamine, you’re not alone. Ractopamine is a beta-agonist, a drug that most pigs are given to get them to bulk up, put on weight, and put on more muscle instead of fat. You won’t find it on the labels. It’s a “hidden” factor in pork production that is suddenly coming to consumer awareness. The FDA says it’s safe. We’ve been consuming puffed up pork since 1999. But safety regulators in Europe, China, Russia and other countries haven’t approved it, saying there’s not enough evidence that it’s safe.
You can possibly find ractopamine-free pork from organic and natural pork producers. But since the drug hasn’t been included on labeling, it’s pretty hard to know. One pork producer who does not use the drug has struggled to get his pork label – “Ractopamine free” – approved by the FDA.
What’s sad about this topic is the effect it has on us as consumers. Why does eating healthy always have to cost more? Pork producers are no different than any other industry. It’s all about the money. And if consumers are willing to pay more for ractopamine-free pork, the industry will get on the band-wagon. Sad but true.