Veal is the meat from a younger animal of either a dairy breed, dairy crossbreed or beef breed. Dairy and dairy crossbreed calves are separated from their mothers and, if raised for veal, grown out on specialist rearing properties, whereas beef breed calves are raised with their mothers and separated at an older age.
In Australia, veal is the meat produced from dairy calves weighing less than 70kg or beef calves (vealers/weaners) weighing up to 150kg.
Calves from the dairy industry may be a pure dairy breed (such as a Holstein) or a dairy cross beef breed (such as Holstein/Angus). After being separated from their mother, the calves usually grow up on specialist calf-rearing properties unless the dairy farmer has facilities for rearing calves. Calves are generally reared in groups in sheds (some with access to pasture) and fed milk or milk replacer and then a grain-based ration. This specialist calf-rearing method results in pink-coloured meat called rose veal.
Vealers or weaners are beef breeds raised on pasture with their mothers. This method of calf rearing results in a light red veal.
The system of veal production where calves spend their entire lives in individual crates with solid wooden sides that do not allow the animal to turn around or express natural behaviours, has never been used in Australia. This inhumane system of housing calves for veal production is designed to produce the ‘classic’ white-coloured veal by denying the calf access to iron. Veal crates have been illegal in the UK and Europe since 2007 but are still used in some countries.
Does the RSPCA have animal welfare standards for dairy or beef calves?
The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme at present covers the production of eggs, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon and dairy veal. The RSPCA’s standards for dairy veal calves focus on ensuring good farming practices, handling, husbandry and management. Calves on RSPCA Approved farms should have space to move, play and socialise. They should enjoy a quality and nutritious diet, proper bedding and access to the outdoors from weaning at the latest. As yet, there are no farms participating in the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme that raise calves for veal.
You may also be interested in reading our blog article The deal with veal or listening to our podcast The deal with veal, and how we can improve bobby calf welfare.