Bart and Amy Mitchell, a couple from Wisconsin, are cattle farmers who don't believe in confining their calves to crates. They run a "free-raise" operation that includes around 600 calves—approximately 200 of which are tagged for veal. "They're free raised, which means they're never confined," Amy says. "They're always kept out here with their mother, given their mother's milk."
Amy says their natural approach—without antibiotics or growth hormones—actually costs less than alternative methods. "While no farming is cheap by any means ... we don't have the buildings it takes to house that many calves," she says. "So we don't have to upkeep those buildings or build any of those structures on our farm."
Free-raise farming also reduces the workload, Bart says. "Anytime you can remove the stress from an animal and leave it out [with] its mother like Mother Nature originally intended to, we feel that the day-to-day and hands-on activities that we would have with that calf are actually less," he says.
Other incentives can't be quantified or calculated in a spreadsheet. "We're really proud to be able to be raising calves in a way that Mother Nature intended," Amy says. "It's better for the planet, and it's better for the calf."