HERNDON, Va. -- A handful of East Coast retailers will begin carrying a line of veal from a meat packer that has met the requirements for using "Certified Humane" labels on the meat packages.
Based here, Humane Farm Animal Care has authorized New York City veal packer, David Mosner, to use HFAC's "Certified Humane Raised and Handled" label on its products. Mosner supplies D'Agostino's, Food Emporium, Publix Super Markets, certain divisions of Whole Foods Market, and other East Coast supermarkets, and is widening distribution geographically, said Michael Mosner, president of the meat company.
Mosner said he's confident he can grow sales by catering to consumers who previously avoided veal because they felt the animals were not treated right. The Certified Humane label will enable him to reach that niche market, he said.
"We've actually picked up a couple of new accounts just now that hadn't been carrying veal," he said. "Wild by Nature, part of King Kullen, is one of them."
Among consumers, there is a widespread perception that veal calves in particular are not raised under humane conditions. The common view holds that calves are raised in small, dark pens, with no exercise allowed.
"What many people don't realize is that for a dairy cow to lactate she must give birth to a calf, and some of those calves are males," said Adele Douglass, HFAC executive director.
Veal growers usually buy calves from the dairy farmer and raise them, not always under the best of conditions, she said.
"But these [growers] that Mosner gets their veal from were not bad. They didn't have to make huge changes to qualify for certification," Douglass said.
While Mosner pays more for HFAC-certified veal, he said he believes he can keep costs to supermarkets down to little more than 10% above the commodity price.
HFAC, a non-profit, unveiled its Certified Humane label in May 2003 and it is now being used by 34 companies who produce meat, eggs, poultry and dairy products. Their animals are raised under humane conditions investigated and approved by HFAC. The producers are monitored regularly by third parties.
This past May, HFAC introduced stringent standards particularly for the humane raising of young dairy beef cattle used in veal production. To be authorized to use the Certified Humane label on veal products, a producer must raise its young dairy beef calves without confinement, in small groups, without tethers and on a wholesome diet that satisfies basic nutritional needs, including iron and fiber.
Michael Mosner noted his producer companies' practices are based on state-of-the art, humane European production methods. The bull calves come from dairy farms in the Midwest, and the Mosner company maintains traceability from birth to marketing.
"We take extra care in raising veal calves in open pens without tethers. They are fed a balanced diet of milk and roughage to allow for the development of the rumen," Mosner said.