'Meat' Cows

'Meat' Cows

Beef cows are bred simply to eat, get big and die. They gain weight quickly and are ready for slaughter at only 11 to 12 months old.

How they’re raised

The most intensive and common system of raising cows for meat is where the calves are taken from their mothers at birth in pens on milk replacer and pellets. The least intensive and much less common method is called suckler herds, where the calf is kept with his mother or other lactating cow until he is weaned (usually around 9 months old) and then put on grass until he is big enough to be killed at around two years old.


During the first week of their lives they are usually castrated (having some of their sexual organs cut off) and have their horns chemically burned out without anaesthetic. This is incredibly painful and cruel.


To put weight on before they’re packed off to the slaughterhouse, they’re kept in fattening sheds and fed on cereals designed to make them gain weight quickly. It’s becoming common to use slatted concrete floors in these sheds (to make cleaning easier), but they are extremely uncomfortable for cows to stand on and result in lameness and infections. Farms can keep up to 8,000 cows this way, cramming them into sheds to stop them from moving around and ‘wasting’ energy.


Veal is the meat of baby calves, mainly the male calves that can’t be used in the dairy industry. They are torn from their mothers just days after being born and put in pens or hutches (either alone or with other calves). They live around 6 months only before the slaughterhouse claims them.



Leather is not a by-product! It’s a huge, wealthy industry. An animal’s skin makes up 7-10 per cent of his or her ‘worth’. By buying leather goods you’re supporting the meat industry and the slaughter of animals. Find out more in our Big Cover Up campaign.


Also check out our dairy campaign for information on what happens to female cows – it’s just as bad!