In this section
The term ‘veal’ refers to meat from calves slaughtered under a year old, often bull calves from dairy herds, since they cannot be used for milk production.
The difference between beef and veal is that beef is from older cattle whereas veal is the meat of younger cattle.
No. In the UK, the calves of dairy cows can be reared to become ‘rose’ or ‘white’ veal
Veal comes in two forms, white and rose. ‘White’ veal generally comes from calves that have a diet of fortified milk and solids, low in iron, with minimal fibre provided, leading to the pale colouring of the meat (due to anaemia).
Rose or pink veal comes from calves given appropriate nutrition with iron and fibre at sufficient levels to avoid health problems such as anaemia. Rose veal accounts for around 95% of the veal market in the UK, with 5%, generally imported, white veal found in restaurants and shops. Rose veal calves are usually kept in groups, in light, well-ventilated, straw-bedded barns in the UK.
The RSPCA has serious welfare concerns about the systems used to produce white veal, as they provide inadequate nutrition and are often associated with other welfare concerns.
Calves reared for veal do not have to be castrated or disbudded unlike calves reared for beef. This saves them from undergoing a painful procedure, commonly performed without the application of long-acting pain relief.
In the EU, but not the UK, veal calves are usually kept in closed barns with slatted floors, without bedding and with little or no fibre in their diet, this is where the majority of “white veal” comes from.
In the UK, veal calves tend to be kept in naturally lit straw barns, are fed a suitable diet, and some have access to pasture.
These differences mean that UK veal calves have a higher quality of life. The RSPCA’s welfare standards for veal go further with requirements around the volume of milk they are fed and how long they are fed for, as well as the provision of environmental enrichment and increased space allowances.
Veal crates are banned in the EU, but many calves on the continent are still kept in barren houses with slatted floors and no straw bedding, meaning the calves have nowhere comfortable to sleep and rest.
They might also have minimal fibre in their diet which can stop their digestive system from developing normally and lead to them becoming anaemic.
These systems are less usual in the UK, appropriate bedding is required for all calves up to 6 months old, and are not permitted under the RSPCA welfare standards.
It is common practice in the UK for calves to be kept indoors, in well-bedded, open-sided barns These barns allow for the circulation of fresh air while protecting the calves from the elements.
EU law sets minimum iron and fibre content for calves' diets, requiring some fibrous food from two weeks old; this means calves cannot be solely fed milk, and most UK veal is reared to higher standards than these minimums.
Under the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations (England, Wales and Scotland), 2007, with similar requirements in the devolved nations regulations, calves reared in the UK must have access to more bedding, higher fibrous food allowances at a young age, and greater space per calf than the EU minimum standards (2008/119/EC).
Thankfully the dairy industry is working hard to minimise the number of dairy breed bull calves born through the use of sexed semen (to only produce female dairy calves). The rest of the dairy herd will give birth to dairy-beef calves which go to be reared for beef.
Sadly, the vast majority of unwanted dairy bull calves are shot at birth as there isn’t currently a market for them to be reared as veal. The RSPCA is seeking to end the practice of shooting bull calves on dairy farms and the industry-led GB Calf Strategy has this as an area of focus.
Yes, individual hutches or pens for calves up to 3 weeks of age are permitted providing all the RSPCA’s strict welfare standards are met. Each hutch must be big enough for the individual calf to turn around and lie down whilst feeling secure and safe. There must also be plenty of straw bedding to lie on, play with and nibble.
The calves must also be able to see, hear and touch those kept in neighbouring hutches. However, the new RSPCA standards encourage keeping calves in pairs, which enables them to develop their social skills, at an earlier age.
The law in the UK requires all calves to be housed in groups by eight weeks of age.
The RSPCA welfare standards for veal calves do not allow calves to be transported to the continent. The calves must be kept in small groups, with deep straw bedding to lie on and are not allowed to be solely fed on milk. They must be given a diet rich in iron and fibre to keep them healthy and to allow their digestive systems to develop normally. We believe that under the RSPCA Welfare Standards, these calves have a good life.
Yes, all RSPCA Assured labelled veal is rose as the calves must have had fibre in their diet and are over six months when slaughtered.