Few things raise the hackles of thoughtful eaters quite like veal—unless it’s veal with a side order of foie gras. Bleak images of calves in cramped crates or being herded on to lorries linger in the memory. And they should—as a reminder of the worst excesses of indifference to animal welfare, they take some beating. But today I’m unashamedly putting on my rose-tinted spectacles and flying the flag for British rose veal. To be honest, if you drink milk or eat cheese, it’s crueller not to eat it.
Spare a thought for male dairy calves. Over a quarter of a million of them are killed each year. Unable to produce milk (obviously) and unsuitable for beef production, they are shot soon after birth as a “waste product” of the dairy industry. Either that or they’re exported to Europe, where the continental craving for pale meat means their welfare is profoundly compromised.
In the past few years, there’s been a growing interest in high-welfare rose veal in this country, and I for one am glad of it. Calves live in small groups, with deep straw bedding and access to a varied diet that leads to their distinctive pink meat; in free-range or organic production, they’re also given access to outdoor grazing. The animals are killed at around six months old, roughly the same age as most pigs or sheep slaughtered for pork and lamb.
~ Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (May 20, 2011)