Our Commitment Continues

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The American Veal Association remains committed to changing the way milk-fed veal is raised today. That commitment has been demonstrated by the farmers and businesses who have made significant changes in facilities and animal husbandry practices over the past several years to deliver a higher standard of animal care. A video released by an activist organization depicts conditions and practices reminds us why changes have been made and why more change is needed. The video represents the “old way” of doing things.

We invite you to read this statement from Midwest Veal LLC for further information and learn why this barn sits empty as it waits for its scheduled renovations.

Dedicated to Calf Care and Continuous Improvement

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By Dale Bakke
AVA President

Starting as a young boy and through college, I had the opportunity to work on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. I watched and observed the dedication my neighbor invested into his farm and caring for the cows we milked and the calves we raised. I had my share of questions and suggestions for how we did things back then. Often, the neighbor’s wisdom and experience outweighed some of my ideas.  Other times, my neighbor and mentor appreciated the new insight. 

Continuous improvement is core to those who farm and raise livestock. It is something I have always valued and I see in our association members today.  Member companies and farms who raise veal reached a milestone as 2018 began when they achieved the transition to group-housing for veal calves over ten weeks of age. Today, there are a variety of different facilities to house veal calves in groups ranging from two up to groups of ten or more. These facilities allow for the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which is the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals. 

“The health and well-being of the calves has been and will continue to be a priority,” said calf veterinarian, Dr. Marissa Hake. “Newborn calves need special attention to grow and thrive. It was important that the desire to move calves to group pens did not sacrifice the need for individual care and attention. We found calves individually penned for the first 8-10 weeks is still optimal for calf health, just as is standard in heifer and beef raising.”

Continuous improvement and innovation to do what’s right and best for the calves entrusted to our care is at the heart of the veal farmers and industry leaders I know. That’s why I was personally disheartened to learn about the video released by an animal rights activist organization this week – for two reasons: First -- Animal abuse is never acceptable. Second – AVA-member company, Midwest Veal LLC is depicted in the video with one of their remaining outdated nursery facilities for newborn calves. Unfortunately, how veal calves are raised today is not accurately reflected in the video.  Additionally, it does not represent the values and dedication I know to be true of Midwest Veal. They are a family company who has a history of dedication and continuous improvement for the veal calves they raise.

I encourage you to read Midwest Veal’s full statement here.

I invite you to continue to visit our website.  Watch our video Meet America's Veal Farmers. Ask questions. We are open for dialog. And like my experience with my neighbor, be open minded and respectful of the wisdom and knowledge in the explanations for how and why we do what we do to raise healthy veal calves. That has and will continue to be our top priority.

This incident is also a very unfortunate reminder to our veal farmers to be very cautious towards those who want to work on our farms. In rural America it is our nature to trust people, and while we will continue to believe the best in people, thorough training and supervision must continue to ensure the same values we have for our animals are practiced in the actions of those who work on our farms. For additional information on the Veal Quality Assurance program visit the Veal Farm website.

TDF Honest Farming Features Veal Farming

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Click image to watch video.

Click image to watch video.

Veterinarian Marissa Hake was a guest on a Facebook Live event that shared an inside look at veal farming. The event was hosted on TDF Honest Farming, a page by Tillamook Dairy Farmer Derrick Josi that provides an authentic portrayal of modern farming practices.

Dr. Hake provides care to about 30,000 veal calves in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. The first video was at a starter veal barn that housed young calves.

In the next video, she visited a farm that was home to older calves who would be going to market in a few weeks. The tour included an explanation of the group pens, the barn flooring, ventilation and feed.

The videos generated numerous comments. Many people were surprised by what they saw and pleased to learn about veal farming.

Click image to watch video.

Click image to watch video.

“This was very interesting to me. I cannot believe how clean the calves are and look very happy.”

“Have to say I still thought veal calves were raised in tlghtless barns chained in tight narrow stalls. I am so glad to see the practice has changed to a much more humane style.”

Dr. Hake created a follow-up video to answer a question several people had asked about why veal calves are kept inside.

 Another video presented facts about veal.

Are You Interested in Raising Veal?

Occasionally we hear from farmers asking how to get started in this great industry. Raising veal can be rewarding, and it is a wonderful way to engage family in caring for the animals you raise.

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First, we encourage all farmers who raise veal to be VQA certified. You can find more information about the Veal Quality Assurance program through this link. The program includes best management practices for raising veal. We recommend you work closely with a veterinarian to develop a comprehensive herd health plan and to become VQA certified.

Next, identify a place to process your veal. Most milk-fed veal is raised and processed in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. Please contact any of these AVA-member companies listed here for more information.

If you would like to market your product directly to consumers, many state departments of agriculture have programs to help with direct marketing. There are a number of farmers who have experienced success in raising and marketing their product direct to consumers, and veal is no exception.

We also invite you to become a member of the American Veal Association, where you can connect with other industry leaders and be informed on the latest developments in the industry.

Thank you for your interest and best wishes on your future efforts.

Where Can I Buy Veal?

Veal meat has been the center of the plate for European cuisines for centuries. While our European ancestors brought their family recipes with them to America, the practice of raising veal in the United States didn’t fully develop until the 1900s.

A lot has changed since then, and today, people are rediscovering veal as a sustainable and humanely-raised meat choice. You might say people are rekindling an old love.

Can you imagine recreating a 200-year old family cookbook? That’s exactly what one Brooklyn, New York, woman is doing with her mother. She contacted the AVA through our website to say her family had  lifted  a self-imposed 20-year ban on veal consumption after learning of the industry’s move to group housing, which she considers a more humane way to raise veal calves. (We do too!)

The woman said the 200-year old family cookbook features several veal dishes. She wrote to express her appreciation for the changes that had occurred in how veal is raised today.  She also wanted to know where to purchase veal. We had a few suggestions:

1.)    Contact your local retailer and order veal through the meat department. Be sure to request American veal.

2.)    If your local retailer is unable to help, contact one of our AVA-member companies such as Catelli Brothers and Marcho Farms to order direct.

3.)    Of course, you can enjoy veal at a restaurant, but then you miss the joy of cooking it yourself!

Not everyone has a 200-year old family cookbook to reference for veal recipes, so follow this link to discover new recipes for enjoying veal. To learn more about how veal is raised today, visit a few farms by watching this video.

  

Attention California: New State Mandate and Jan. 1, 2020 Deadline Will Impact Price and Availability of Veal

With passage of Proposition 12, there is great uncertainty if and who will be able to supply California with veal and at what price. California businesses should contact their current suppliers for more information to assess availability and cost according to the American Veal Association (AVA).

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 Under the new mandate, any veal intended for sale in California beginning January 1, 2020 will need to come from barns that provide 43 square feet per calf, regardless of the age and size of the calf. Essentially U.S. farmers will need to raise about one-third the quantity of calves (about 66) in a barn that was designed, built and financed to hold 200 calves. 

AVA-member companies and farmers  are dedicated to providing consumers with nutritious meat that comes from animals humanely raised. This commitment was the foundation for the substantial changes that have occurred in the milk-fed veal industry over the past 10 years. Veal calves today are raised in group pens with no tethers and plenty of space to move around and socialize with other calves.

“Proposition 12 by California voters will impose unnecessary regulations based on misleading and out-of-date information,” states AVA president, Dale Bakke. “The space requirement is excessive and will not improve animal welfare. At the current time, no milk-fed veal raised anywhere in the world meets California’s floor space requirements.”

Over the past 10 years, AVA-member companies and veal farmers invested more than $150 million in new buildings and renovations to meet the association's goal of group-housing and no tethers. These new facilities enable the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals, to be practiced.

The EU had the most generous space requirements in the world for veal calves prior to this law. Their guidelines are scientific and based on the size(weight) of the calf.

    1. Veal Calves over 485 lbs. must have a minimum of 1.8 sq. meters (19.4 sq. ft.)

    2. Calves from 330 - 485 lbs. must have a minimum of 1.7 sq. meters (18.3 sq. ft.) 

    3. Calves less than 330 lbs. must have a minimum of 1.5 sq. meters (16.1 sq. ft.)

    4. No calf over 8 weeks of age is allowed in an individual pen.

According to Bakke, AVA members are very consistent with these EU guidelines providing 16-20 square feet per calf depending on the size of calf. Tethering is not allowed on AVA-member farms.

Popular at fine-dining restaurants and other retailers, California is a significant consumer market for milk-fed veal. Veal is raised by farm families primarily in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. AVA represents approximately 80 percent of all veal meat produced in the US. 

Download the entire statement here.

Video Showcases American Veal toDay

 The American Veal Association has changed the way milk-fed veal is raised today.
Come visit our farms and meet AVA members through this new video --
American Veal Today

 How are veal calves raised today?  Where are they raised?  What do veal calves eat?  Are veal calves anemic, tethered and raised in crates?  The American Veal Association’s new video answers these questions and many more about milk-fed veal.  The video features AVA members and farmers including veterinarian, Dr. Marissa Hake, and nutritionist, Dr. Sonia Arnold, who provide specific details about the health and nutrition of raising milk-fed veal today.

 The video provides a look inside modern veal barns where calves are raised in group pens, not crates and never tethered. Calves can stand, stretch, lie down, turn around, groom naturally and have contact with others calves in comfortable, clean environments. These new facilities enable the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which are the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals, to be practiced.

AVA President, Dale Bakke, talks about sustainability in the video and the interrelationship veal has with both the dairy and beef industries. Milk-fed veal is raised in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.

 The AVA invites you to learn more about raising milk-fed veal through this new video,  American Veal Today

American Veal Association Statement on California Proposition 12

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Proposition 12 in California is an unnecessary overreach given how milk-fed veal is raised today. The American Veal Association  believes consumers deserve food that is produced in an ethical manner that aligns with their values and expectations.

Family farmers and businesses that produce milk-fed veal are committed to meeting their customers’ expectations for the responsible and humane care of animals raised for food. The American Veal Association's Statement of Principles states, “We have an ethical obligation to provide appropriate care for our calves at every stage of life.”

The most significant demonstration of this commitment was in 2017 when AVA member farms achieved a goal set in 2007 to completely transition to raising all calves in group housing. The change also includes the elimination of tethers. AVA estimates more than $150 million was invested in new buildings and renovations over the past 10 years. These new facilities enable the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which are the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals, to be practiced.

AVA members are fully committed to providing consumers with safe, nutritious meat that comes from animals humanely raised.

Unnecessary regulations based on misleading and out-of-date information will not improve animal welfare or food choices for consumers. We encourage California voters to vote NO on Proposition 12.

Download the entire statement here:  (pdf)

AVA Confirms “Mission Accomplished”

Veal farmers knew a decade ago there was a better way to raise and care for milk-fed veal calves. The American Veal Association (AVA) established a goal in 2007 to move completely to group housing over a ten-year period. Since then, AVA members dedicated themselves to researching the best facilities to provide optimal care and the financial resources to make it happen by the end of 2017.

“As we start the new year here in 2018, I am pleased to confirm that all AVA-member companies and individuals involved in veal production have successfully transitioned to group housing and no tethers,” acknowledged Dale Bakke, AVA president.  “Industry members have invested more than $50 million in building new facilities and renovations to achieve this milestone. Those members include Marcho Farms, Catelli Brothers, Strauss Brand Veal, Midwest Veal, Strauss Veal Feeds, and Provimi Foods.”

Additionally, the association reports castration, dehorning, tail docking or tethers are not practiced on AVA member farms.

Today, there are a variety of different facilities to house veal calves in groups ranging from as few as two up to groups of ten or more. These facilities allow for the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which is the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals. 

“The health and well-being of the calves has been and will continue to be a priority,” acknowledged calf veterinarian, Dr. Marissa Hake. “Newborn calves need special attention to grow and thrive. It was important that the desire to move calves to group pens did not sacrifice the need for individual care and attention. We found calves individually penned for the first 8-10 weeks is still optimal for calf health, just as is standard in heifer and beef raising.”

AVA has established best practices for raising milk-fed veal:

  • Adequate pen space is provided for each calf to easily stand, stretch, lie down, turn around, groom naturally, and have contact with other calves. Calves are in group pens of two or more calves, and no calf is individually penned after 10 weeks of age, unless it is for health reasons such as sickness, injury or disease.
  • Calves are never tethered.
  • Calves are handled in a calm, controlled and gentle manner.
  •  Animal caretakers are trained to handle calves with minimum stress to the animal and the consequences of inhumane handling are known and enforced.
  • Facilities are ventilated and protocols are in place to minimize airborne particles to reduce odors, dust and/or noxious gases.
  • All classes of calves are provided with reasonable protection from heat and cold.
  • Facilities provide ample natural and/or overhead lighting.
  •  Pens are routinely cleaned and the resting area provides warmth, dryness and traction at all times.

Other changes in the milk-fed veal industry during this period include feeding some grain and roughage to the calves, in addition to the nutritionally-balanced milk formula, and marketing the animals at an older age resulting in larger calves of 475 to 500 pounds. 

“Raising veal calves today is significantly different than what it was ten years ago,” said Hake. “AVA members, which account for a significant majority of the milk-fed veal raised and processed in the U.S., have demonstrated their commitment to extremely high standards of animal stewardship through this transition to group pens.”

Bakke added, “The AVA’s dedication to this achievement confirms the U.S. milk-fed industry is committed to the well-being of their calves and supporting a culture of continuous improvement to ensure positive change for animal care.”

It was May 9, 2007 when the AVA Board of Directors adopted a resolution calling for all U.S. veal farmers to transition to group housing methods by December 31, 2017. To learn more about the member companies of AVA and see images of the new facilities, visit www.AmericanVeal.com

Some AVA members also practice pasture-raised veal which provides another product offering for customers.

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Group Housing Goal Nears Reality

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The AVA’s dedication to transition to group pens confirms the U.S. milk-fed industry is committed to the well-being of their calves and supporting a culture of continuous improvement to ensure positive change for animal care. These new facilities allow calves to stand, stretch, lie down, groom themselves and socialize with other animals.

Read the full update here.

AVA reaffirms commitment to group housing

Member companies of the American Veal Association are well are their way to transition to group housing methods by the end of 2017, a goal set in 2007. The AVA board of directors approved a resolution reaffirming their commitment to group pens at their annual meeting in December, estimating that the transition is nearly 90% complete.

 

Download AVA's Group Housing Resolution.

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AVA Astounded by FSIS Equivalency Decision of Dutch Veal Imports

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The American Veal Association (AVA) is extremely disappointed in an apparent decision by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to allow imports of veal from the Netherlands into the United States. The AVA is concerned the agency has failed to fully assess the Netherlands' inspection and production system for veal in making its determination that the Dutch system is equivalent to the U.S. system.

Download AVA's official comments (PDF)

The AVA believes the proposed rule is unnecessary and misleading.

Proposed Rule: Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Veal Calves, Docket No. FSIS–2014–0020, RIN 0583-AD54, 80 Fed. Reg. 27269 (May 13, 2015)

The AVA supports the current regulation which allows calves that are tired and cold a period of time to rest upon arrival at the slaughter plant. Similar to other young animals, veal calves need to rest frequently. They are also very sensitive to heat and cold, and are subject to transit fatigue. Formula-fed veal is typically shipped from climate controlled barns, unlike large bovines that are often coming from outdoor feed yards.  Veal calves have not been conditioned to the weather extremes that older bovines have, making them more susceptible to exposure during transport. The thermo-neutral zone for young calves is much narrower than for older bovines. However, veal calves typically have a quick recovery when given an opportunity to rest and be rehydrated.  The same is true for pigs.

Download AVA’s official comments (PDF)

Our Guiding Principles: Ethical Standards and Code of Conduct for the U .S. Veal Industry

The U.S. veal industry recognizes that consumers and customers expect us to produce food in a responsible manner consistent with their values. To foster more confidence in our practices and promote a better understanding of our guiding principles, we affirm the following ethical standards and code of conduct for those involved in the U.S. veal industry.

Download Statement of Principles (PDF)