Over the last few days, we have been fielding a lot of questions about ractopamine. Specifically, concerned customers want to know what it is and if Kettle Range uses it in our pork production.

The short answer: No way!

The sudden concern stems from an NPR news story about the commonly-used drug that aired last Friday on their popular food segment, The Salt.

Ractopamine, which is marketed by a unit of the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company under the rather Orwellian trade name Paylean, is a veterinary drug that has become increasingly common in the U.S. pork industry since the FDA approved it's use in 1999. Some experts estimate that as many as 80% of factory farmed, "commodity" pigs are administered the drug as part of their feeding regime.

Health conscious consumers have learned to ask whether their meat contains added growth hormones. But guess what? This isn't a hormone! A so-called beta agonist, ractopamine produces a physiologic effect similar to adrenaline and results in leaner pigs that put on weight more quickly. "That's money in the farmer's pocket", reported NPR.  What could go wrong?

Interestingly, the European Union, Russia, and even China--a country not known for it's vigorous food safety practices--have outlawed the drug. Indeed, prohibitions on the use of ractopamine is a growing problem for American farmers blocked from exporting their hogs to the world's fastest growing pork market.

Unfortunately, pork isn't the only meat at the supermarket that may have been produced on a diet of ractopamine. It's also used in the beef industry, under the trade name Optiflexx, and by turkey growers, under the name Topmax.

At Kettle Range, we reject the use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals that artificially promote growth. In addition to ractopamine, the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics--another common practice that causes animals to grow faster and more "efficiently", even under horrendously unsanitary and inhumane conditions--is prohibited in our system.

While we try not to be alarmists or to use the growing public concern over adulterated, drugged, and chemically altered factory food to our advantage, we do believe that there is serious, growing cause to worry.  We also believe that the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community is to buy locally grown meat from small producers and processors who demonstrate a commitment to traditional, environmentally sustainable, humane farming practices.