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Veal is the meat of young cattle (calves). Though veal can be produced from a calf of either sex and any breed, most veal comes from male calves of dairy cattle breeds. Next to beef, veal has a delicate taste and tender texture.[1]



There are five types of veal:

  • Bob veal, from calves that are slaughtered when only a few days old (70-100lb.) up to 150 lb. (USA only)[2]
  • Formula-fed (or "milk-fed") veal, from calves that are raised on a nutritionally complete milk formula supplement. The meat colour is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine, and velvety appearance. Usually slaughtered when they reach 18–20 weeks of age (450-500 lb).[3]
  • Non-formula-fed ("red" or "grain-fed")[4] veal, from calves that are raised on grain, hay, or other solid food, in addition to milk. The meat is darker in colour, and some additional marbling and fat may be apparent. Usually marketed as calf, rather than veal, at 22–26 weeks of age (650-700 lb).
  • Rosé veal UK is from calves reared on farms in association with the UK RSPCA's Freedom Food programme. Its name comes from its pink colour, which is a result of the calves being slaughtered at around 35 weeks.[5]
  • Free-raised veal, The veal calves are raised in the pasture, have unlimited access to mother’s milk and pasture grasses. They are not administered hormones or antibiotics. These conditions replicate those used to raise authentic pasture-raised veal. The meat is a rich pink color. Free-raised veal are typically lower in fat than other veal.[citation needed] Calves are slaughtered at about 24 weeks of age.

In some culinary circles, veal is also used to refer to baby lamb.[citation needed]

The veal industry's support for the dairy industry goes beyond the purchase of surplus calves. It also buys large amounts of milk by-products. Almost 70% of veal feeds (by weight) are milk products. Most popular are whey and whey protein concentrate (WPC), by-products of the manufacture of cheese. Milk by-products are sources of protein and lactose. Skimmed milk powder, casein, buttermilk powder and other forms of milk by-products are used from time to time.[6]

Culinary uses

Boneless veal cutlets

Veal has been an important ingredient in Italian and French cuisine since ancient times. The veal is often in the form of cutlets, such as the Italian cotoletta or the famous Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel. Some classic French veal dishes include: fried escalopes, fried veal grenadines (small thick fillet steaks), stuffed paupiettes, roast joints and blanquettes. As veal is lower in fat than many meats, care must be taken in preparation to ensure that it does not become tough. Veal is often coated in preparation for frying or eaten with a sauce.

In addition to providing meat, the bones of calves are used to make a stock that forms the base for sauces and soups such as demi-glace. The stomachs are also used to produce rennet, used in the production of cheese. Calf offal is also widely regarded as the most prized of animal offal.[7] Most valued are the liver, sweetbreads, kidney, and spinal marrow. The head, brains, tongue, feet, and mesentery are also valued.

Minced veal with garlic and shiitake on pasta


Free Raised Veal


Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry and comes from male dairy calves. Veal in the United States contributes $250 million to the America's dairy industry.[8][9][10] Since female calves are used to produce milk and beef, use of male calves is limited, outside of breeding. Around half of all calves born in dairy farming are female.[11][12]

New born calves are given a varied amount of time with their mothers, which can be anything from a few hours to a few days. [8][13][9]Free Raised calves are raised alongside their mothers, and always have access to their mother’s milk.[14]


There are primarily three different types of housing used for veal calves: hutches, stalls, or various types of group housing.[12][11]

While calves are young and most vulnerable to disease, they are kept in hutches, which keep them warm and isolated. Food, water, and straw bedding are freely available to the calves. Attention is paid to individual calves to monitor feed consumption and health. When they are less vulnerable, they are moved to either stalls or group housing.[11]

Free-raised or pasture-raised veal calves require no housing, barns, or facilities. Calves freely roam open pastures with their mothers and herd.[15]

Calf hutch


Milk-fed veal calves consume a diet consisting of milk replacer, formulated with mostly milk-based proteins with added vitamins and minerals to provide a balanced nutritional solution. This type of diet relates to infant formula and is also one of the most common diets used for calfs in the veal industry.[13][16]

Grain-fed calves normally consume a diet of milk replacer for the first 6–8 weeks. The calves then move onto a grain-based diet (mostly corn-based), that contains many vitamins and minerals.[12]

Free Raised calves are raised on an open pasture and receive of diet of mother's milk, grass, and fresh water. Furthermore, free raised calves do not receive drugs such as hormones or antibiotics, which is often a focus of criticism amongst animal welfare organizations.[15][16]

Animal welfare

Veal is a controversial issue in terms of animal welfare.

Multiple animal welfare organizations, who strongly focus on factory farming, attempt to educate consumers about several veal production procedures that they consider to be inhumane. This education has proven successful in creating pressure on the industry, resulting in recently announced changes in the methods used by the veal industry.[16]

A strong animal welfare movement concerning veal started in the 80s with the release of photographs of veal calves tethered in crates where they could barely move. After the release of these photographs, veal sales have plummeted, and have never recovered.[17]

Many veal farmers listened to the concern of their customers and have started improving conditions in their veal farms.[18][17]

The American Veal Association, has announced that they plan to phase out the use of crates by 2017, which is often the main focus of controversy in veal farming. Strauss Brands is the first veal packer in the US to raised veal calves in a completely tether free and group raised since 12/31/08.[9][19][20].[21]

Criticism with veal crates revolves around the facts that the veal calves are highly restricted in movement, have unsuitable flooring, spend their entire lives indoors, experience prolonged sensory, social, and exploratory deprivation, and are more susceptible to high amounts of stress and disease.[16] Though, according to the Veal Quality Assurance Program & Veal Issues Management Program industry fact sheet, and the Ontario Veal Association, individual housing systems are important for disease control, and in reducing the possibility of physical injury. Furthermore, they state that it also allows for veal farmers to provide more personal attention to veal calfs, being in individual crates.[13][11]

Alternative agricultural practices for using male dairy calves include raising bob veal (slaughter at 2 or 3 days old),[22] raising calves as "red veal" without the severity of dietary restrictions needed to create pale meat (resulting in fewer antibiotic treatments and fewer slaughtered calves),[23] and as dairy beef.[24]

When it comes to the centuries-old method of free raised veal,[25] calves never experience the stress of confinement, separation from their mothers and herd-mates, or an unnatural diet.[26][15] Many veal producers are realizing this, and the demand for free raised veal is rapidly increasing.[27][15][18]

In 2007, less than 5% of veal calves were raised in a group raised environment. In 2009, this has increased to 35%.[18] Free Raised or authentic pasture raised veal is only being offered by Strauss Brands at this time.[28]

Vermont bob veal slaughterhouse closure

In November of 2009, a slaughterhouse certified as an organic processor in Vermont specializing in bob veal was closed after a series of continuous cases of inhumane treatment towards veal calves. Inhumane treatment, in this situation, involved calves that appeared to have been skinned alive, kicked, dragged, and shocked while conscious.[29][30]

A USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service inspector was shown in a video investigation coaching a slaughterhouse worker on ways to avoid having the facility being shut down.[29][30][31] The facility was shut down by the USDA with the Vermont Agriculture Agency.

An organic dairy farmer in a different area in Vermont claims the following:

"I wouldn't be in this business if that's the way it was. That's not the norm. I can tell you that."[30]

Furthermore, a spokeswomen for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture stated this:

"These practices are not representative of the industry as a whole in Vermont."[29]

Drug usage in veal

The USDA does not approve the use of hormones on veal calves for any reason, with the exclusion for use in ruminating cattle, which is not related to veal.[32]

The USDA does approve antibiotics in veal raising to treat or prevent disease.[32]

In 2004, an official of the USDA found a lump on a veal calf in a Wisconsin veal farm. This lump turned out to be an illegal hormone implant (such implants are only allowed legally for beef cattle).[33][34] Through further investigation, it was understood that around 90% of veal calves in the U.S. were fed synthetic testosterone illegally.[33][34] The American Veal Association has confessed that this practice has been going for 30 years.[33]

The USDA expresses concern that the use of illegal drugs might be widespread in the veal industry.[34]

The USDA claims, in relation to penicillin, the following:

"Penicillin is not used in calf raising: tetracycline has been approved but is not widely used."[32]

Veal crate bans

The following shows where veal crates have been banned, or are currently in the process of being banned:


Veal crates became illegal in the UK in 1990,[35] and a full ban has been placed for the entire European Union, as of 2007.[36][37]


Crates are slowly being banned in the United States. As stated above, several large veal producers are working on phasing out veal crates, as well as the American Veal Association. State-by-state veal crate bans are as follows:[38]

Current active legislation in:

  • New York State (proposed in May of 2009, if passed: planned to take effect in 2015)[44]
  • Massachusetts (proposed in January of 2009, if passed: planned to take effect in 2015)[45]


  1. ^ BBC Food - Food matters - Is veal cruel?
  2. ^ Calves and antibiotic residues
  3. ^ milk-fed veal definition
  4. ^ Grain-Fed definition in Recommended Code of Practice for Raising Farm Animals
  5. ^ The Appeal of Veal
  6. ^ Veal could be sold from the dairy case -Delft Blue
  7. ^ Montagné, P.: New Concise Larousse Gatronomique, page 1233. Hamlyn, 2007
  8. ^ a b CCFA - Veal Calves
  9. ^ a b c - American Veal Association Pledge
  10. ^ Veal Farm Industry Facts
  11. ^ a b c d Ontario Veal - All About Veal Housing
  12. ^ a b c Veal issue center
  13. ^ a b c Veal Farm FAQ
  14. ^ Natural pasture raising
  15. ^ a b c d Free-raised American Veal
  16. ^ a b c d HSUS Welfare of Veal Calves
  17. ^ a b NYTimes - Veal to Love, Without the Guilt
  18. ^ a b c Washington Post - Veal, Cast in a Kinder Light
  19. ^ CFHS on veal crates
  20. ^ Veal Assoc. Recommends Group Housing
  21. ^ AVA statement
  22. ^ Humane Food - Veal Facts
  23. ^ Sargeant JM, Blackwell TE, Martin W, et al. Production indicates, calf health and mortality on seven red veal farms in Ontario. Can J Vet Res 1994;58:196-201.
  24. ^ Maas J, Robinson PH. Preparing Holstein steer calves for the feedlot. Vet Clin Food Anim 2007;23:269-279
  25. ^ Strauss Veal Recipes
  26. ^ Straussveal homepage
  27. ^ HSUS - Strauss & Marco Veal Crates
  28. ^ Strauss Brands
  29. ^ a b c Boston - Veal Slaughterhouse closed down
  30. ^ a b c CBS News - Stories - Veal Slaughterhouse Closure
  31. ^ WCAX Veal slaughterhouse closure
  32. ^ a b c USDA's Veal Factsheet
  33. ^ a b c PETA Veal Factsheet
  34. ^ a b c Illegal hormones found in veal calves
  35. ^ CIWF on Veal Crates (UK ban on bottom of page)
  36. ^ CFHA - Veal Crates
  37. ^ - Europe Plan for Veal Crate Ban
  38. ^ a b University of Nebraska - Cali. Veal
  39. ^ Arizona Bans Veal
  40. ^ Oregon Bans Veal
  41. ^ Colorado Bans Veal
  42. ^ Maine Bans Veal
  43. ^ Michigan Veal Ban
  44. ^ Possible NY Veal Ban
  45. ^ Possible Massachusetts Veal Ban

External links

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