Russia has decided to ban imports of U.S. pork and beef due to a growth stimulant called ractopamine.
Farmers use ractopamine to make their livestock more lean, but multiple countries including the European Union, China, and Taiwan have now banned U.S. products that use ractopamine because they say it's not safe.
Some food experts, such as those with "Consumer Reports" magazine, say "that no drugs should be used routinely in healthy animals to promote growth".
Former Iowa Pork Producers Association President Leon Sheets runs a hog operation in Chickasaw County.
Sheets doesn't use the growth hormone on his farm because of the genetics of his pigs, but he insists that ractopamine is safe.
"In the U.S. … our regulatory agencies that tested the product have determine that it's safe," Sheets said.
An article in the January edition of "Consumer Reports" magazine says that about one-fifth of the 240 pork products they tested harbored low levels of the drug ractopamine. These levels were well below the FDA's limit and the international limit.
Leon Sheets says this is a political issue, not a safety concern.
"It's more of a market access [issue]…and that's a way to keep out U.S. pork," Sheets said. "If they can reduce the amount [of pork in their country]… they can bolster up the price of their locally domestic grown pork."
Sheets says that in 2011, Russia bought $230 million in U.S. pork products, making Russia the sixth largest consumer base, but Sheets doesn't see it as permanent.
"They bring it up as a barrier, but as soon as their prices adjust my guess is that you'll see pork products rolling in as they need the products," Sheets said.
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