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Pennsylvania Ag News Headlines
Veal industry prioritizes welfare in program update
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 02/09/2024

The Veal Quality Assurance (VQA) Program recently underwent a significant update, driven not only by transparency concerns but also by the need for industry-wide consistency in animal welfare practices.

Funded by the Beef Checkoff, the revised program outlines 52 expected outcomes for milk-fed veal producers, focusing on nutrition, environment, health, behavior, and mental state. While adherence is voluntary, 99% of producers participate, highlighting its importance as an industry benchmark.

"This program helps ensure everyone meets expected outcomes for areas like nutrition and well-being," explains Donna Moenning, VQA program manager.

Key changes include:

Emphasis on Animal Welfare: The update strengthens guidelines across the five welfare domains, providing a clearer framework for responsible raising practices.

Body Condition Scoring: A first for veal calves, this new scorecard helps producers maintain optimal animal health and sets quality standards for processors.

Veterinary Oversight: Producers collaborate with veterinarians and undergo triennial certifications to ensure program compliance.

Sonia Arnold, president of the American Veal Association, welcomes the revisions: "The VQA program serves as a guide for success and demonstrates our commitment to high care standards for veal calves."

Transparency remains a motivator. "Consumers want to know more about how their food is raised," says Moenning. The program aims to address concerns and build trust within the industry.

However, challenges exist. While California's Prop 12 mandates specific housing requirements, the VQA program encourages adherence to individual state regulations. Balancing national consistency with evolving regional demands requires ongoing adaptation.

Despite veal consumption mirroring lamb's low per capita rates (under 1 pound in 2020), the industry sees the VQA program as a step towards increased consumer confidence.

"There's a need for greater communication and awareness," says Moenning. "The VQA program demonstrates our commitment to ethical animal care and transparency, ultimately aiming to benefit both consumers and animals."

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