& answers about veal
“Where does veal come from?”
Veal is the meat of male dairy animals. A dairy cow must have a calf in order to produce milk. Female calves, called heifers, are raised to have their own calves and produce milk themselves when they are mature. Male calves, called bulls, are not able to produce milk, so they are raised for meat instead, similar to beef cattle.
Raising veal cattle is one way farmers contribute to sustainable food production and a circular food economy – making sure everything that is produced has a purpose to reduce waste as much as possible.
“How is veal different from beef?”
Beef and veal come from different breeds of cattle. Just like other animals, for example, there are many different breeds of cattle, each with their own special characteristics.
Beef comes from specific breeds of cattle, like Angus, Hereford and others, that are bred and raised specifically to produce meat that is well-marbled.
Veal, on the other hand, is meat that comes from male dairy animals. In Ontario, the most common breed of dairy cow is the black and white Holstein, because of its ability to produce a lot of milk. The animals are well- muscled and very lean. Holstein or Holstein/beef cross-bred cattle make up 95 per cent of the veal cattle in Ontario; the remaining are from other dairy cattle breeds like Jersey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Guernsey.
“I see all the white huts on farms in the country – are those all veal?”
No. Those white huts are called hutches and they are sometimes used to house both female and male dairy calves in the first few weeks of their lives. That’s to help them develop a healthy immune system before they are moved into barns where they mingle with other cattle. There, they live in group pens bedded with straw or wood shavings with other cattle of the same size and age as they continue to grow. Veal cattle aren’t sent to market until they reach a weight of about 750 pounds (340 kilograms).
“I’ve heard that veal is from baby cows – is this true?”
No, this is a common misconception about veal cattle. Veal cattle are raised to about seven to eight months of age and about 750 pounds (340 kilograms) before they are sent to market. In fact, veal is the second oldest meat Canadians eat; only beef cattle are older and heavier when they have reached market weight.
“What’s the difference between grain-fed and milk-fed veal?”
In Ontario, the veal industry only produces grain-fed veal – veal cattle that have been raised primarily on a grain-based diet. In Quebec, the United States and Europe, farmers also raise what is called milk-fed veal. Those are animals that eat a primarily milk-based diet for most of their lives. Although their diet is different, both milk-fed and grain-fed veal cattle receive the same quality of care and attention to their health and welfare.
“I heard veal is mistreated – is that true?”
No. Veal farmers, like all livestock farmers, make the health and welfare of their animals their top priority. Healthy animals are productive animals, but first and foremost, farmers care for their cattle because it is the right thing to do.
A national Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Veal Cattle (these codes exist for all farmed livestock species) sets the standard for responsible care of veal cattle in Canada. As well, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires all farmers to follow its regulations about the care and handling of livestock in transport.
Veal Farmers of Ontario strongly condemns any animal abuse, and the veal industry works closely with the Ministry of the Solicitor General’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services which is responsible for on-farm animal care issues in the province. Veal farmers are also active participants in the Animal Care Helpline operated by Farm & Food Care Ontario.