Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Veal

If you drink milk or eat butter, you should be willing to eat veal. Or at the very least you should be okay with the idea that someone, somewhere is eating veal.

Here's why:

Dairy cows, in order to give milk, must have calves. Half the calves are male. Male calves don't have a role to play on a dairy farm. Hence, veal.

Am I saying that we should all go to the big supermarket and buy veal? No. The veal they sell in the supermarket is no better than the beef at the supermarket, and it can be worse, because of the way some calves are treated. What about "organic" veal? Not necessarily any different. A few years ago, two employees of a processor specializing in organic veal were charged with cruelty after "hidden-camera video taken by the Humane Society of the United States showed days-old calves being dragged, kicked and shocked as they were loaded off a truck and taken to slaughter." (link)

So where is the veal that we should be willing to eat?

It is at the small farms. Find a local dairy or beef farm, ask them about veal, and buy some from them. You will be supporting their business. You will also be getting a versatile, tender, and delicious meat for yourself and your family.

10 comments:

Painted Hand Farm said...

Thank you! I hand-raise dairy bull calves and finish them off in the pasture so their meat is a healthy rose color and has some taste. If people understood that the 'white veal' that was considered a delicacy was only a marketing ploy of industrial ag to squeeze more money out of a vertically integrated dairy operation, they'd also understand that it has to be dredged in flour and covered in sauce to give it any taste. REAL VEAL is a gorgeous rosy pink color and can stand alone with its delicate flavor.

Matthew said...

Whoa, I was ready to criticize this statement until I read the whole thing. NO one should have to eat cruelly raised meat (which most veal is). If you don't like the veal industry, don't support industrial dairy. If you want to be sure you aren't supporting cruel veal, know your farmer.

Tamarah Rockwood said...

The local farm which raises calves for veal keep them leashed to large dog houses. I'm not familiar enough with raising cows to make a huge argument against this, but it definitely made me cringe.

Any insight with this?

Alex Lewin said...

Painted Hand, thank you for your comment, and your clarification about the differences between "white veal" and real veal. There's definitely some subtlety to the variety of things out there called "veal".

I would be psyched if you would consider doing a guest post on my blog about the right way to raise calves, some of the wrong ways to do it, and why it matters that people understand. Do you have the time and interest to do this?

Alex Lewin said...

Matthew, well said. Thanks.

Alex Lewin said...

Tamarah:

These dog houses are the infamous "crates" that started the veal backlash in the 1970s. They have no place in the ethical raising of calves.

In fact, veal crates have been illegal in the UK since 1990, in the entire EU since 2007, and are being banned state-by-state in the US.

Your local farmer might not understand that there are alternatives. If you choose to, you might delicately try to have a conversation with them about it. If they get angry with you or are rude, then you may not want to support their business anyway, so no great loss...

Pure Mothers said...

Don't they still deprive the calves of iron to keep them anemic? Aren't they still kept in crates to keep muscles soft and atrophied? Still cruel, if you ask me. The animal should be allowed to graze and grow normally.

Alex Lewin said...

Dear Pure Mothers,

There's veal, and then there's veal. Please read the first comment from Painted Hand Farm.

I don't condone crating. I think calves should be allowed to have milk and grass in whatever combination they like, and should be free to wander around with the herd. This is becoming more common these days (although not universal).

Stephen said...

Tamarah and Alex:

I suspect what Tamarah was describing are hutches, not crates--the phrase "leashed to" is the clue. Hutches are a little larger than crates and the calf can usually go in and out. Crates are small, the calf is only inside, and offer virtually no freedom of movement. There are still some ethical questions about hutches, mostly having to do with socialization, and of course still somewhat limited movement. The main advantage of hutches (compared to group housing) is reduced disease transmission from calf to calf.

Alex Lewin said...

Stephen--thanks for the clarification.

When we go to buy meat, in particular, there's so much information that's not available to us, unless we are buying it directly from the producer.

And even then...