US veal farmers move calves to group pens
Move made ahead of call for 2017 transition for veal community
A recent survey has revealed that 70 percent of veal calves raised by American Veal Association farmers will be housed in group pens by the end of 2012, five years after the association's board of directors voted to adopt a resolution calling for all U.S. veal farms to transition to group pens by Dec. 31, 2017.
Veal farmers have traditionally housed calves in individual pens in order to ensure the individual requirements of food, water and comfort were all met. In 2007, the association recognized that ongoing research, field results and new technology offer veal farmers new tools that would allow them to provide excellent and individual care in groups. “As farmers, we have an obligation to provide for the well-being of the animals in our care,” said Jurian Bartelse, president of the American Veal Association. “In 2005 we built state-of-the-art group houses at our farm and have been pleased with our ability to continue to provide excellent care and produce the high-quality veal our customers expect.”
The association estimates that U.S. veal farmers will spend $250 million over ten years on new technology to retrofit or build new barns to accommodate group-housing methods. Typical veal farms in the U.S. are small, family farms with 200–250 animals and are generally located in states with significant dairy production. “Our partnership with the dairy community allows for more sustainable food production,” said Bartelse. “Veal calves rely on milk by-products for nutrition, and veal farmers rely on dairy farmers to provide them with the calves we raise. Dairy farmers depend on the veal industry to purchase these items and add value to their industry.”
In December 2011, the American Veal Association conducted a member survey to determine progress being made toward the 2017 commitment. "Our survey shows the commitment of the veal community in meeting consumer demands," said Bartelse. "The move toward group housing was embraced early by the leadership of [the association], and today, farmer members and non-members continue to move in that direction.”