The reason I no longer eat veal has, sadly enough, nothing (well, at least not much) to do with the cruelty involved in raising the calves. It has everything to do with being unable to stomach the sheer grossness that is a veal calf. And for someone who has been an EMT for a long time, and has chopped up road killed animals to feed to wolves bare handed, that’s saying a lot.

When I worked at Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, most of the food for the wolves came from road-killed deer, but we were also frequently called by farmers who had lost livestock and wanted us to dispose of it. Some of our most frequent fliers were veal farmers. For our main pack, there was no problem; we’d just haul an entire carcass into the enclosure and let them go at it. However, we also had several wolves who had been chased out of the pack at some point and were living in enclosures by themselves or in small groups. For them, a whole carcass was too much to eat at one time, so we had to section them up before feeding. I became expert at quickly disemboweling and quartering deer, goats and calves (we usually tried to stay away from sheep, because the wolves would have a field day with the wool and the entire place wound up looking like a snowstorm had struck). Oh, just as a side note, our wolves refused to eat pigs – so much for fairy tales

Whenever we got veal calves, we could always tell by the smell. There is something about a baby cow that has been fed only formula laced with antibiotics and hormones that smells wrong. Every veal calf that I ever sectioned had huge hairballs in their stomach from obsessive licking (I guess they get very bored). They also, without fail, had HUGE collections of pus around their joints – perhaps from the steroid/antibiotic combinations, who knows. But every time I disjointed a hip, there was a gush of pus.

I guess the reason I no longer eat veal is that I can’t stomach the idea of eating muscle that has been basically soaking in purulent fluids – not to mention the thought of what weird antibiotic-resistant bugs may have grown in my tasty meat dish – perhaps to be killed by cooking, perhaps not.

Anyway, there you go. More than you ever wanted to know about veal calves, I’m sure...

Veal is the meat of a calf, generally from one to three months old. It's been considered a delicacy since Biblical times: when the prodigal son returned, they killed and ate the fatted calf.

Veal is prized for its pale tender fine-grained flesh and mild flavour. Colour is the main standard by which veal is judged: the best quality has creamy white flesh and white fat; if the meat is reddish, the calf was older when it was slaughtered and so is not, strictly speaking, veal.

Veal may be milk-fed, formula-fed, or "Bob" veal. Milk-fed veal comes from calves that have consumed their mother's milk; their flesh is firm and creamy white. Formula-fed calves consume a special diet of milk solids, fats, and vitamins, and is often sold as provimi veal ("protein vitamins milk"). This is considered the best quality veal because the flesh is very pale and soft, but it is bland and thin compared to milk-fed veal. Bob veal comes from very young calves, less than a month old; this is the by-product of the dairy industry: dairy cows are inseminated and give birth to calves that are removed right away, and the cows continue to produce milk.

In all cases, to keep the flesh of the calf pale in colour the animals are not allowed to eat grains or grasses, and their movements are severely restricted; in extreme cases they are held immobile in pens. Many people consider the treatment of veal calves inhumane and refuse to eat veal. This is fine, but you should be aware that chickens, cows and pigs are often fed similarly "unnatural" diets and have their movements severely curtailed in factory farm environments. gwenllian is concerned about hormones and antibiotics in veal, something else that is common to agribusiness; only organic and "naturally raised" meats will not have been subjected to these artificial additives.

Right then. Veal is usually sold fresh. The most common types of veal are very thin cuts from the shoulder - veal scaloppine (aka veal cutlets or wiener schnitzel) - and those from the ribs: rack of veal and veal chops. They need quick cooking; be careful not to overcook or they will be dry and tough. Veal bones and veal stewing meat are much prized by chefs for the excellent stock they produce, which is often reduced to make rich and delicious demi-glace sauce. Veal shanks are often crosscut and used to make osso buco; the meat and bones are rich in gelatine and so yield an unctuous sauce enhanced by the luscious marrow.

Veal (?), n.[OE. veel, OF. veel, F. veau, L. vitellus, dim. of vitulus a calf; akin to E. wether. See Wether, and cf. Vellum, Vituline.]

The flesh of a calf when killed and used for food.

 

© Webster 1913.

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