Factory Farming

Veal Calves on a Factory Farm

Calves Raised for Veal

veal crates

The veal industry was created as a by-product of the dairy industry to take advantage of an abundant supply of unwanted male calves. Close to one million male calves are raised and slaughtered for veal each year.  


veal calves

Calves raised to make veal are severely confined. Veal calves commonly live for 18 to 20 weeks in wooden crates with chains around their neck. The chain is tethered to a crate which measures 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. The size of the crate restricts the movement of the calf to either lie down or stand; the calf can not turn around or stretch his/her limbs.


Calves raised to become veal are also purposely fed an all liquid milk substitute which is deficient in iron and fiber in order to produce anemia which results in the pale colored flesh typical of veal.

Veal calves are slaughtered at 16-20 weeks of age unable to walk to slaughter as their muscles are severely underdeveloped.  Some veal calves are killed at just a few days old to be sold as low-grade 'bob' veal for products like frozen TV dinners.


Crate confinement prevents the performance of most of a cow’s natural behaviors including locomotion, resting, sleeping, grooming, circadian rhythms, as well as digestive, reproductive, explorative, and social behavior. No straw or bedding is placed in veal crates due to a concern that they will eat the straw and gain iron or fiber content which would color their meat.

Calves are forced to lie on the wooden slats of their crate which are covered in their excrement. The result of the calves’ inability to perform any of their natural behaviors is exhibited by stereotypic movements such as head tossing, head shaking, air chewing, scratching, and kicking. These movements indicate chronic stress.


The confinement and insufficient diet of veal calves results in poor health and the prevention of healthy growth and development. Calves raised for white veal suffer from serious digestive problems including abnormal gut development and stomach ulcerations. Research has shown that calves raised in crates for veal are more susceptible to disease than calves housed in other systems and as such, require three times more medication and medical treatments.


The European Union has banned the use of veal crates for humane reasons. 

Though the U.S. veal industry continues to use them extensively, in a recent survey, 74% of the US population supported federal legislation to ban veal crates.

In 2006, Arizona became the first state where voters passed a humane ballot initiative to ban the use of veal crates. The Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act will phase out the use of veal crates by 2013. 

What can you do?

More and more producers are raising animals in a more natural setting, allowing animals fresh air and more room to perform natural behaviors. This is true even for veal calves and is supported by a Tufts Veterinary School project aimed at encouraging producers to offer humanely raised veal. Read a Boston Globe Article on the project. Refining your diet by choosing products from humanely raised animals instead of conventional products from intensive farm operations helps ensure animals live a better life. Click here for information on where to find animal products from farms that have higher standards of care for animals.  

Grocery stores now have a large assortment of products to replace those traditionally obtained from animals who are intensively confined. These alternatives include veggie burgers, soymilk, tofu, tempeh and even fake chicken fingers and sandwich meat like bologna! You can find many of these items in the freezer section of your local grocery store. 

If we reduce the consumption of animal products by just one meal a week, approximately one billion animals would be spared the suffering that occurs with intensive confinement operations.