How are Veal Calves Raised?

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How are Veal Calves Raised?

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David Gorrell

 

Male calves are taken from their mothers shortly after birth. Some are slaughtered soon after birth for "bob veal." Others are raised in "open pens," but are sometimes chained. Most are destined for the veal crate.

The veal crate is a wooden restraining device that is the veal calf’s permanent home. It is so small (22" x 54") that the calves cannot turn around or even lie down and stretch and is the ultimate in high-profit, confinement animal agriculture.(1) Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves’ muscles, thus producing tender "gourmet" veal.

 

The calves are generally fed a milk substitute intentionally lacking in iron and other essential nutrients. This diet keeps the animals anemic and creates the pale pink or white color desired in the finished product. Craving iron, the calves lick urine-saturated slats and any metallic parts of their stalls. Farmers may also withhold water from the animals, who, always thirsty, are driven to drink a large quantity of the high-fat liquid feed.

 

Because of the living conditions and restricted diets, calves are susceptible to a long list of diseases, including chronic pneumonia and "scours," or constant diarrhea. Consequently, they must be given massive doses of antibiotics and other drugs just to keep them alive. (The antibiotics are passed on to consumers in the meat.) The calves often suffer from wounds caused by the constant rubbing against the crates.

 

About 14 weeks after their birth, the calves are slaughtered. The quality of this "food," laden with chemicals, lacking in fiber and other nutrients, diseased and processed, is another matter. The real issue is the calves’ experience. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the Earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. They are kept in darkness except to be fed two to three times a day for 20 minutes. 

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Veal calves are observed individually and are provided with specialized care. They also receive a milk replacer diet that provides all of the 40 vitamins and minerals they require. Veal calves are usually separated from the cows within 3 days after birth, allowing for control of diseases and monitoring the dairy cow for udder problems. Individual stalls allow veal farmers and veterinarians to closely monitor the health of each calf and properly treat a calf with a specific, government approved antibiotic. Veal farmers monitor each calf for health deficiencies such as anemia. The feed is controlled to meet the calves’ iron needs. Health products for use with veal calves are approved by the Food and Drug Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services before being put on the market. The FDA also regulates information on the labeling of the product, the doses permitted, and withdrawal period. How is Veal Inspected? All veal in retail stores is either USDA inspected for w

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