With the passage of Proposition 12 in California, there is great uncertainty if anyone will be able to supply California with veal -- and who and at what price, according to the American Veal Assn. (AVA).
AVA president Dale Bakke explained, “Proposition 12 by California voters will impose unnecessary regulations based on misleading and out-of-date information. 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.”
In a notice to California customers and consumers, AVA said under the new mandate, any veal intended for sale in California beginning Jan. 1, 2020 will need to come from barns that provide 43 sq. ft. 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 said.
AVA pointed out that AVA member companies are farmers who are dedicated to providing consumers with safe, nutritious meat that comes from animals raised humanely. “This commitment was the foundation for the substantial changes that have occurred in the milk-fed veal industry over the past 10 years,” AVA said in a statement. “Veal calves today are raised in group pens with no tethers and plenty of space to move around and socialize with other calves.”
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 practice of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals.
Prior to passage of California's law, the European Union had the most generous space requirements in the world for veal calves. AVA said the guidelines are scientific and based on the size (weight) of the calf and include:
- Veal calves over 485 lb. must have a minimum of 1.8 sq. m (19.4 sq. ft.).
- Calves weighing 330-485 lb. must have a minimum of 1.7 sq. m (18.3 sq. ft.) .
- Calves less than 330 lb. must have a minimum of 1.5 sq. m (16.1 sq. ft.).
- No calf over eight weeks of age is allowed in an individual pen.
According to Bakke, AVA members are very consistent with these EU guidelines, providing 16-20 sq. ft. per calf, depending on the size of calf. Tethering is not allowed on AVA member farms.
Milk-fed veal is popular at fine-dining restaurants and other retailers, and California is a significant consumer market for this product. Veal is raised by farm families primarily in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. AVA represents approximately 80% of all veal meat produced in the U.S.