A bull calf has four possible fates: he can become a veal calf, a steer, an ox, or a bull.
- Veal calves are castrated and killed at about 16 weeks and eaten as veal.
- Steers are castrated and killed while mature but still fairly young (14-16 months) and eaten as beef.
- Oxen are castrated and used as work animals. When they die, the meat is too tough to eat, even in Big Mac format.
- Bulls are not castrated and are used as studs. When they die, the meat is also too tough to eat and probably tastes funny to boot.
(We castrate most calves for two main reasons: it makes the animals docile and easy to handle, and testosterone affects the flavor of the meat, making it gamy and unacceptable to wishy-washy modern palates.)
The number of bulls and oxen is insignificant compared to the other types. Veal calves are generally from dairy herds, of which they are a basically unwanted byproduct.