If you eat grain-fed veal, thank the Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre!
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
How long have consumers been able to buy grain-fed veal? Barely a few decades ago, grain-fed veal was not sold in grocery stores, for the simple reason that it did not yet exist. Only milk-fed veal was available, but it was costly to produce and expensive to buy. The production of grain-fed veal took off in the 1980s after conclusive research was conducted at the Lennoxville Research Station, now known as the Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre.
In the 1970s, a team of research scientists at the Lennoxville Research Station embarked on a series of studies to determine whether veal calves could be fed grain instead of a milk-based diet. Could proper calf growth possibly be achieved at a lower cost by changing the animals’ feed? The studies found that a calf’s digestive system could be stimulated at a very early age to enable healthy growth on a grain-based diet, incorporating such grains as soybeans or rapeseed, rather than a milk-based diet. Although grain-fed calves take three weeks longer than milk-fed calves to reach the same weight, grain-fed veal is 50% cheaper to produce!
The popularity of grain-fed veal production therefore flourished in the 1980s. The Lennoxville Research Station had just opened up a whole new avenue for the dairy farmers of Quebec and the rest of Canada. At the time, Quebec had about 350,000 calves available for fattening, while Canada had 800,000. This situation was an excellent expansion opportunity for the dairy production sector and, at the same time, offered consumers a new, high-quality food product. Since grain-fed veal was less expensive than milk-fed veal, consumers were quick to embrace it. Grain-fed veal is now part of the regular diet of many consumers.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre has generated a series of innovative scientific successes that have helped improve the lot of Canadian farmers and that continue to create new opportunities for them.
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