Where Does Veal Come From?
If you think veal comes from baby cows, you are pretty much correct, but let us learn more – how old are the calves, how are they raised, how are they killed, and so forth.
Veal typically comes from young dairy calves (although sometimes beef cattle are used as veal, particularly when orphaned). These calves are taken from their mothers and put into small pens. The reason they are removed from their mothers is so more milk can be collected, with only a small portion being fed back to the calves.
It is mostly the male calves who will be slaughtered for veal, but some females too, with the remaining females being kept to grow up and be a part of the dairy heard.
There are several variations on the pens used to house veal calves. If you go for a drive in the country you may see small, white plastic shelters, about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle (Bug). These are in fact veal calf shelters. Each one containing one, or two, calves. Other calves may be kept in small stalls in a barn. The calves live in that small space until they are sent to slaughter. They are not allowed out to run and play, or to nibble fresh grass. Their diet is very restricted, as is their movement. The only exception to this is “free range” veal, which is very hard to find.
Bob Veal is the youngest calves. These babies are slaughtered when only a few days old.
Milk Fed Veal
Also known as Formula Fed Veal, these are the babies that are bottle fed milk, or a milk replacement (which is purchased in a powered form and mixed with water). They are usually slaughtered around 18 – 20 weeks of age. The meat is very light colored, and smooth in texture.
This is sometimes called Grain Fed Veal, or Non-Milk Veal. It comes from calves that are fed grain, hay, and so forth, in addition to the milk, and are slaughtered at an older age, 22 – 26 weeks. The meat may be darker with more fat.
This is a product of the UK in which calves are allowed more freedom, and are slaughtered at 35 weeks of age.
Free Range Veal
Here we see calves that were raised more naturally, allowed to graze with their mothers, and play with other calves. They are not given hormones or antibiotics. These animals are slaughtered around 20-26 weeks of age. Often calves are raised this way not for their well being, but because it involves less work, as such these are typically beef calves rather than dairy calves, that would have been removed from their mothers for milk collection purposes.
How are veal calves killed?
Veal calves are slaughtered just the same as other cattle. According to the laws in each country they are usually stunned (not killed) then strung up by their hind leg and bled to death. In some cases they may be shot in the head with a rubber bullet, or put to death with an actual bullet. The law generally requires the animals to be unconscious to the point where they do not struggle, or cannot stand on their own.
The small pens used to confine veal calves are often called “Crates”, and one time there were no laws regarding the size of these crates, however some areas are starting to implement minimum size requirements, allowing for more movement of the calves, a few have banned their use but producers are still able to keep the calves in small barns.
In a horrific case in Vermont, a slaughter house specializing in bob veal was investigated and eventually shut down when reports were confirmed that calves had been skinned alive and while still conscious. This was not so long ago, and in fact it was as recent as November 2009. Further abuse had taken place, such as the calves being kicked, dragged, and so forth.
In most countries hormones are not given to calves this young, unless they are being raised for beef production, as such hormones are not allowed to be administered in the veal industry.
All in all, veal is a by-product of the dairy industry itself. Those who are against eating veal should also quit drinking milk and avoid other dairy products.