In a surprising move, U.S. company Merck Animal Health has suspended sales of the beta-agonist Zilmax, a cattle growth promotant, according to a Reuters report. The decision comes on the heels of Tyson Foods Inc. announcing last week that the company would no longer accept slaughter cattle that had been fed the feed additive. JBS USA also recently raised concerns about the product’s effect on cattle health.
The sales ban wasn’t expected, as Merck had announced earlier this week it had a plan to further evaluate the use of Zilmax in the beef production chain, but that the plan did not include halting sales.
Zilmax, (zilpaterol hydrochloride) is, according to Merck’s website, an FDA-approved supplement for cattle that has been used by cattle farmers globally for nearly two decades and,”improves cattle’s natural ability to convert feed into more lean beef.” Sold though Merck’s animal health division, sales of the product neared $160 million between Canada and the U.S. last year.
Stay tuned early next week for market reaction to this announcement.