As a dairy farmer, I am often linked to the veal industry. As a first generation dairy farmer, I can tell you that the only exposure I have in regards to the veal industry is negative information from animal extremist groups. We do not have any veal farms in our area. I have never visited a veal farm nor have any of our calves have been sold to a veal farm. The male calves born on our farm are raised as if they were born on a beef ranch. I know all too well that there is false information constantly being spread about the dairy industry so I decided to do my own research on the veal industry.
It is important that dairy farmers know the truth even if we are not directly involved with veal farming.
I recently met several individuals from The Center of Food Integrity, one of the gals has been working directly with the American Veal Association. She was excited to share veal information, veal resources and connect me with a veal farmer to interview. I started with basic questions:
- How many veal farms are there in the United States? There are about 1,000 veal farms.
- What is the average size of the veal farms in the United States? The average farm raises 200-225 calves at a time.
- Which states are these veal farms located? Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania & New York.
- Where do veal farms get their calves? The calves they raise are typically male calves from dairy farms.
- What is the average age and weight that veal calves are harvested? The average age is 20-22 weeks of age. The average weight is 475-500 pounds.
- Are veal calves raised in individual or group housing? “Veal farmers have begun to transition from individual stalls to group pens and today, a majority of veal calves are raised in group pens.” You can read more on the Veal Farm website. Let it be noted that all veal farms will be fully transitioned to group housing by 2017. It sounds as though most have already made or in the process of making that transition.
- How many different kinds of veal are there and what is the difference?
- “Special-fed” or “Milk-fed” veal: Special-fed veal calves (also known as milk-fed and formula-fed veal calves) are fed nutritionally balanced milk or soy-based diets. These specially controlled diets contain iron and 40 other essential nutrients, including amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. The majority of veal calves are “special-fed.”
- “Non-special fed” or “Pasture-raised veal”: Non-special-fed veal calves are fed a variety of diets, including milk replacer, grain and forages (hay, silage, or pasture). They are marketed at live weights of 151 to 400 pounds.
- Calf: A calf is a young bovine, either male or female.
- “Bob” veal: A small percentage of domestic veal calves are marketed up to three weeks of age, or a weight of less than 150 pounds. These are called “Bob” veal.
I also found this video on the veal farm website.
I would like to visit a farm as well but know that most likely will not happen due to living in an area with no local veal farms. Make sure to read about my interview with Chris, a veal farmer from Wisconsin.