Questions and Answers


I'M SENSITIVE TO ISSUES CONCERNING THE HUMANE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS. WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE WAY VEAL CALVES ARE RAISED?

The family farmers who earn their living raising veal calves have a vested interest in maintaining a healthy environment for their livestock. These farmers feed their calves twice a day, clean the floors below the stalls daily, and are always on the lookout for any unusual behavior. If a calf is ill, it is given immediate individual care. These measures ensure the calves will be strong and heathy. Veal farmers have nothing to gain by doing anything other than what is best for the health and well-being of their calves.


I've heard today's farms are like big food factories. Is that true?

The image of a food factory couldn't be further from the truth. Typical veal farms are family operations. And while today's veal farmers take advantage of modern technology and production practices, it has only led to safer, more caring programs. This video is a great opportunity to tour a veal farm virtually.


Is veal inspected?

Of course. Trained government personnel conduct a visual inspection before and during processing. Animals with visible signs of health problems are held for further examination. You can learn more about the inspection process by visiting the Food Safety and Inspection Service website.


But aren't veal calves raised in enclosed boxes?

No! Veal farmers have begun to transition from individual stalls to group pens and today, a majority of veal calves are raised in group pens. Farmers continue to innovate and perfect group housing but generally ensure that veal calves are moved to group pens of two or more by ten-weeks of age. Veal stalls and pens are of adequate size to allow the calves to stand, stretch, lie down, and groom themselves.


How long do veal calves stay with the cow? Why are they separated?

Veal calves are usually the offspring of dairy cows, and are normally removed from cows within one to three days of birth. This allows the dairy cow to return to the milking herd as she produces significantly more milk than a calf will consume. This practice also provides health benefits to both cow and calf. Certain types of diseases can be controlled more effectively, and farmers can better monitor the dairy cow for any udder problems.


What does 'special-fed' mean?

When a calf is "special-fed" (also known as "milk-fed" or "formula-fed") this refers to a nutritionally balanced milk or soy-based diet. These diets contain iron and 40 other essential nutrients including amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. Today, many veal calves receive this special diet.

Each year the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA tests a random sample of veal calves going to market for the presence of residues. Residue violations represent a very small percentage of the samples tested.


WHAT ABOUT THE CLAIM THAT VEAL CALVES ARE KEPT ANEMIC AND WEAK?

Veal farmers carefully watch each calf to make sure it is not suffering any clinical symptoms of anemia, like weakness or loss of appetite. With a special-fed diet, the calves receive carefully controlled amounts of iron to meet their nutritional needs. Research studies have shown that such diets help maintain normal appetite, health and behavior.


How else do farmers ensure good health for their veal calves?

Veal farmers employ specific, government-approved antibiotics to ward off disease. Health products approved for use with veal calves are painstakingly scrutinized by both the Food and Drug Administration and the manufacturer before being put on the market. The FDA also regulates the labeling of the product, the doses permitted, and the withdrawal period. Additionally, farmers work with a licensed veterinarian to diagnose, treat and manage herd health.


I imagine dark, cave-like cattle warehouses. Is it really like that?

That wouldn't make sense either. Modern veal barns have artificial lighting overhead or receive natural sunlight through windows. Farmers house their calves in properly lit barns to make it possible to monitor the calves regularly, feed the animals, and provide for routine cleaning of their stalls. Typical veal barns are also heated during cold months and have year-round ventilation to provide clean, fresh air.


WHAT ABOUT TESTING FOR RESIDUES?

Each year the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA tests a random sample of veal calves going to market for the presence of residues. Residue violations represent a very small percentage of the samples tested.


WHAT ELSE IS BEING DONE ABOUT RESIDUES?

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service launched a new, more modern testing system in 2012 that allows the agency to test for dozens of drugs, pesticides, and other potentially harmful compounds simultaneously.

The change was a significant update to the extensive meat inspection program and underscores the efforts in place to provide safe food to the public.

Another promising initiative is an industry-wide quality assurance program. Under the program, individual producers can assure consumers that their products are residue-free based on strict compliance with good husbandry practices. Additionally, veal farmers work directly with a veterinarian to develop a comprehensive herd-health program which includes judicious use of antibiotics and other animal health products.