What you didn’t even know you needed to know!
Veal is a high quality, nutritious and flavourful red meat. It’s a lot like beef in many ways – both types of meat come from cattle and the animals are raised in similar ways on family farms in Ontario. The big difference lies in the breed of the cattle.
Four things you must know about veal cattle
Veal is part of the circular economy: dairy animals that can’t produce milk are responsibly raised on family farms for meat instead, ensuring everything that is produced is used.
Veal cattle are the second oldest animal we eat: they weigh over 750 pounds (340 kilograms) when they go to market.
Veal is raised no differently than other red meat: in groups, on farms by family farmers who are committed to animal health and welfare.
Veal farming is sustainable farming: many veal farms have been in the same family for generations, farmers who are committed to the sustainability of farming, the environment and rural economies.
In Canada, beef comes from a variety of cattle breeds, like Angus, Limousin, Charolais, Simmental or Hereford that are raised for their ability to produce meat. Most of Ontario’s veal cattle, however, come from the Holstein dairy breed, the familiar black-and-white animals that are most commonly used in dairy production because of their ability to produce a lot of milk. Other dairy breeds are Brown Swiss, Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire cattle.
In order for a dairy cow to produce milk, she must give birth to a calf. Female calves are known as heifers and they are raised to produce milk and have calves of their own. Male calves, called bulls, can’t produce milk so they are raised for meat instead, just like beef cattle. It’s part of how farmers contribute to the circular economy concept in food production: everything that is produced has a purpose and nothing is wasted.
In the beginning
Almost all dairy cows in Canada are bred (become pregnant) through artificial insemination. This lets farmers breed animals for specific characteristics. Cows are pregnant for about nine months before giving birth to their calf. Once calves are born, they are moved into their own pen so farmers can care for them. This means, for example, feeding them colostrum, which is the first milk that cows produce. It’s full of important nutrients that will help the calves build a healthy immune system.
Dairy calves weigh about 100 pounds (45 kilograms) when they are born and become very alert and active right away – in fact, they are walking and eating within minutes of birth!
Debunking the veal age myth
A common misconception is that veal is the meat of very young animals. That couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, by the time they reach their market weight, veal cattle are the second oldest farm animal raised for meat – and also one of the largest. For some context compared to other meat proteins, only beef cattle are older and heavier by the time they are ready for market.
A veal animal is ready for market at around 750 pounds (340 kilograms), which is at approximately seven to eight months of age. Beef animals, by comparison, are marketed at 1200 to 1300 pounds (550 to 600 kilograms) at approximately 24 months of age.
Did you know?
A 600-pound (272 kilogram) veal animal will eat 15 pounds (seven kilograms) of grain a day and drink up to eight gallons (30 litres) of water – that’s the same as 14 boxes of cereal and 15 two-litre cartons of milk!