Questions and Answers about Ractopamine Hydrochloride (Ractopamine) in Food Animal Production

Food animal farmers and producers have many tools available to help them improve the quality of the meat they provide to consumers. One such tool is the type of feed they give the animals. Animal feed can contain ingredients such as Ractopamine Hydrochloride (Ractopamine) that help food animals use their feed more efficiently, producing leaner meat with improved protein content, which translates to more healthful choices for consumers. Ractopamine is safe for animals to consume in their feed, and it is also safe for people to consume meat from these animals. Read on to learn more about ractopamine in food animal production.

What is Ractopamine?

Ractopamine hydrochloride (Ractopamine) is an ingredient in animal feed that improves the quality and protein content of meat. It is used by some pig and cattle farmers to produce lean cuts of meat.  Ractopamine has been found to improve the overall leanness of the pigs and cattle, which increases feed efficiency, reducing the amount of feed needed to produce the meat. 

Ractopamine is not an animal antibiotic or hormone, and it is not produced through genetic engineering. It is an FDA-approved food animal drug.

Is Ractopamine safe?

Yes, ractopamine is safe for use in food animal production and people can safely consume meat from animals given ractopamine. Ractopamine was first approved in 1999 for use in pigs and in 2003 for use in cattle. Since then, 27 regulatory authorities around the world have determined ractopamine to be safe. In addition, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) evaluated the safety of ractopamine in 2004, 2006 and 2010 and has established global standards for the safe use of ractopamine in food animal production.

Studies conducted in humans and laboratory animals on potential health effects of ractopamine have found no adverse health effects from ractopamine’s use in food animal production. In addition, since ractopamine was approved, no adverse health effects have been reported by people who have eaten meat from animals given ractopamine.

Is Ractopamine safe for food animals?

Yes. Extensive studies have found that ractopamine can be used safely in pig and cattle feed.  Millions of pigs and cattle have been fed ractopamine since its approval.

Will Ractopamine affect the way my food tastes?

No. Ractopamine has not been found to affect the taste or other desirable qualities of pork or beef. Consumers can continue to safely enjoy these foods as part of a healthful diet and can expect to receive the same qualities from these foods as other meat products they consume.

Additional Resources:

Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). “Meeting 2010: Evaluation of data on ractopamine residues in pig tissues.” May 31, 2010.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

FDA 101: Animal Feed

FDA Freedom of Information (FOI) Summary (swine). New Animal Drug Application (NADA): Ractopamine Hydrochloride

FDA Freedom of Information (FOI) Summary (beef cattle). New Animal Drug Application (NADA): Ractopamine Hydrochloride

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Animal Health

International Food Information Council Foundation: Animal Agriculture Resource Page