What is Baby Cow Meat Called?

Baby cow meat is called veal. It usually comes from cows under three months old and has a different flavor and texture from regular beef. In some parts of the world, veal is considered a delicacy, while in some places veal is completely banned.

In this article, we’ll look at veal in detail, figure out how and why it’s produced, how it differs from aged beef, and why it’s banned in some countries.

What is Baby Cow Meat Called

Do we Eat Baby Cow Meat?

Whether or not you eat meat from baby cows (veal) depends on where in the world you live.

In most countries, baby cow meat (veal) is considered a delicacy, however there are many negative associations with veal around animal welfare which means that many people choose not to eat veal for ethical reasons. 

Veal production is completely banned in some countries, and there are bans on specific methods of production which are deemed to be cruel in other countries and states.

Why Do We Eat Baby Cows?

You may be wondering why we eat baby cows in the first place. Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow the calf to grow to adulthood and sell them for beef?

1. Why Not Let Them Grow Up?

Most veal comes from male dairy calves. 

The reason we eat baby dairy cows is because male dairy calves are useless to the farmer, since dairy cows usually aren’t suitable for meat production.

Farms can not extract milk from a male dairy cow, and since dairy cattle breeds are not bred for beef, it’s not economically viable to feed a male baby dairy calf until adulthood.

Instead, it makes more sense for the farmer to sell any male dairy cattle for veal straight away, so that they don’t have to waste money feeding them.

2. Where Do The Veal Calves Come From?

Veal calves come mostly from dairy farms, who need to keep their dairy herd perpetually pregnant to ensure they produce enough milk throughout the year.

When dairy herds give birth, the females are raised to be dairy cows too, and the males usually get sold for veal.

Is Veal Cruel? How Are Baby Cows Raised To Make Veal?

In many parts of the world including Sri Lanka and Finland, raising calves for veal is prohibited for animal welfare reasons. In many other countries, specific aspects of raising veal have been banned.

The act of eating veal is no more cruel than eating lamb or chicken, however there are some specific methods involved in veal production which some people find unethical, such as the use of veal crates and tethering calves so that they can’t lie down.

1. Veal Crates

Veal crates are small, confined metal crates which are used across the world to raise veal.

These crates do not have enough room for the calf to sit or lie down, stretch their legs, or even turn around.

Calves are kept in perpetual darkness, unable to move until they are old enough to be slaughtered.

This type of confinement has been banned in the UK since 1990, in the EU since 2007, and partially banned in Canada since 2017.

According to The Humane Society of the United States, most calves raised for veal in the United States are still raised in veal crates.

Why Is Veal White?

Veal calves aren’t fed milk, they are fed a synthetic milk replacement instead which is deficient in iron compared to regular cow milk. The white color of veal meat comes from the lack of iron in their diet.

This type of feeding is banned in many countries around the world, notably in the EU and UK, where there is a minimum requirement for iron that must be included in the diet of every veal calf.

What Is Rose Veal?

Rose veal is veal from calves who were over six months old at the time of slaughter, and is recognizable by the red color of the meat, compared to regular veal which is very pale.

Rose veal calves have fiber added to their diets and have a fully developed rumen (stomach). Their meat is a more natural color because they have sufficient iron in their diet.

Can Veal Come From Female Cows Too?

Theoretically, veal could come from either male or female cow calves, however female cows are usually more profitable for dairy production and don’t often get sold for veal.

How Young Does A Cow Need To Be To Be Classified As Veal?

There are a few different definitions for veal, each of which corresponds to a different age group.

VealVeal refers to meat from any cow calf which is under one year old, but is usually around four or five months old at the point of slaughter.
Bob VealBob veal is the meat from a cow calf which was slaughtered at 3 weeks of age or under.
Rose VealRose veal is a specific term used to describe meat from a calf under one year, but over the age of six months.
In addition, rose veal must have been fed on a diet of fiber, unlike regular veal which is fed strictly on milk replacement and other liquids.

What Is The Difference Between Beef And Veal?

The difference in classification between beef and veal is that veal is from an animal which is under one year old at the point of slaughter, and beef is from an animal which is over one year old.

Veal meat is more tender than beef, and usually much lighter in color, due to the lack of iron in veal meat.


Baby cow meat is called veal and is a delicacy in many parts of the world. Veal is classified as any meat which comes from a calf which is younger than one year at the point of slaughter.

Although there are definitely some cruel practices in the veal industry, not all farmers take part in these practices and it’s possible to source ethically raised veal, which is commonly called rose veal.

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