For many people, veal is associated with animal cruelty. But what should be done with all those boy calves that are a by-product of the dairy industry? Vegans have one answer and proponents of rose veal another.
The truth is that if you drink milk, you should think about what happens to the calves. You can’t have one without the other. The females can join the herd or be sold to another dairy farmer, but the herd only needs one bull and dairy breeds are generally not suitable to be raised as beef.
In parts of Europe, such as Italy and the Netherlands, people still quite happily eat “white veal” – the anemic color comes from the lack of iron in the calf’s diet. The animals are reared in horrific conditions that would be illegal in other countries, including the U.K. The babies are taken from their mother, kept in confined conditions, and fed a cocktail of formula milk and other chemicals without adequate dietary fiber.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. In the U.K. you can buy ethically raised veal under the name “rose veal” – so called because of its pink color. Instead of being put down after a few days, or sold to Europe to be raised under inhumane conditions as “white veal”, the animals are suckled by their mothers, eat grass and live for about six months – longer than most pigs. The humane standards are endorsed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
In the U.S., similar humanely raised veal is growing in popularity. It’s sold under a variety of names – including meadow, red, rose, pastured, grass-fed, free-range and suckled. Look for the endorsement of an organization such as Humane Farm Animal Care.
The meat is still tender but it has more flavor than white veal. Many people think it actually tastes better. Certainly if you care about animal welfare, it’s in better taste.
Image: Cowboy Dave