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Feed for Thought

Feed Mill Management

What veal can teach us about rising feed costs

May 10, 2012

Veal meat is popular in some European countries like France, Italy, Belgium and Germany because it is a tender meat, with a good nutrient level and no fat. In some places, it is even a tradition to eat veal at Pentecost.

In some cultures, the simple image of eating this kind of meat is awful. I can understand this; I feel ashamed at not being able to eat insects. Several anthropologists and sociologists have had to deal with this – something good to eat is not necessarily something good to think about.

What I’d like to point out is that veal meat production really contributes to EU dairy and meat sectors.

The sector breeds 17% of European veal from its dairy herds (some other veals are traditional in mountains but have less of an impact on the dairy sector). It is a kind of specific European production as the only exporter is the Netherlands (where people don’t eat much of this meat) and the Netherlands exports mainly to other European countries.

Veal production is fully a part of dairy sector efficiency. Veal, a kind of dairy by-product, also “consume” dairy products: 160,000 metric tons of milk powder (1.2% of European milk production) and 780,000 metric tons of whey powder (half of European production). Jean-Marc Chauvet (French Institut de l’Elevage) said during an AFTAA meeting last April that if veal meat production were to stop, Europe would produce 1.1 million metric tons of red meat (as veal would then be bred as beef) which represents 13% of red meat consumption in the EU. This could have an impact on international meat production.

Welfare laws have changed veal production greatly. In 2004, the EU imposed a minimum of fiber in the diet and opened the door to solid feed as a complement to lactation feed. As dairy product prices are very volatile, inclusion of solid feed in nutrition programs helps even out the price, even if cereal supplies are expensive and variable. During its 150 breeding days, veal might consume between 250 and 350 kg of lactation feed and up to 100 kg of solid feed. Ten years ago it only consumed lactation feed.

This example shows that formulation is THE solution for dealing with supply concerns when corn and soybean prices shoot up. This is not just a minor adjustment but, as scientists say, “a paradigm shift.”

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