Where Does Veal Come From?
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Where Does Veal Come From?

Where does veal come from? How old are veal calves when they are slaughtered? How are veal calves slaughtered?

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.

veal calf

photo source

Bob Veal

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.

Calf Meat

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.

Rose Veal

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.

veal calf

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.

Other Notes:

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.

Other Links

The Cruelty of Mass Egg Production and Battery Hens

Why Farmers take Baby Animals away from their Mothers

Caring for an Animal with Daily Needs - such as a Bottle Baby Lamb

The Cruelty of "Teacup" Pigs

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Comments (7)

I've known this for many, many years and never eat veal. This is really just too much, even for a farm girl used to raising her own beef. Cows are some of the calmest, sweetest creatures God put on this earth and I really have a problem with the way they are treated to have veal.

I'm sorry Brenda, but I really did not enjoy this article, I am surprised I actually read it. It was very disturbing to me and I think it is cruel. I am not a vegetarian I am sorry to say. I wish I was.

to Susan this is not suppose to be an enjoyable article.. but rather I do hope people support it by spreading it around so we can make a difference to the lives of the animals involved.

It is indeed a very important topic and must be dealt with even though it is very painful for me. I do realize why you wrote the article and didn't expect it to be light hearted. Still it is a tough subject for an animal lover. But I do appreciate what you were trying to accomplish

Before we became victims of cruelty from our kind, animals have endured so much cruelty from us first. A very sad truth.

I had to stop reading at "skinned alive"... and get a grip before I could continue reading. I had no idea that was going on in Vermont. I used to live in upstate NY... in farm country. I've seen some horrific stuff, but ever with veal. When I was a kid I saw a farmer kill his pigs by slitting their throats and letting them run around until they drop dead. I was horrified. My father's family were farmers, but they were dairy farmers. Great article.. but hard to read. I hope lots of people read this. I do drink milk, but would never eat veal. It's cruel to kill the cute little baby calves.

a practice that should be stop at once