Veal – it’s a controversial meat, marred by animal welfare issues. But if it was sourced ethically from British suppliers and sold in supermarkets, would you put it on your menu? That’s what Jimmy Doherty wants.
After several animal welfare organisations raised awareness of the inhumane production of veal, where calves were kept in confined crates and exported live to the continent, veal sales nose-dived in the UK. Now veal only makes up 0.1% of the meat we eat in Britain.
Veal crates were banned in the UK in the 1990s and a Europe-wide ban followed in 2007. Still, veal sales have never recovered and you’ll find it tough to track it down in the shops. And although Tesco imports German veal, British veal is off the menu – until early next year.
Tesco will begin to stock British ‘rose veal’ from 2013. Why rose veal? Well, because it’s pinker than the pale meat you might find on the continent, where calves are fed a restricted milk diet.
Slaughtered male dairy calves
In some ways, eating rose veal could be more ethical than not. It all comes down to where the calves come from – they are somewhat a by-product of the dairy industry.
Jimmy Doherty, who promotes rose veal in tonight’s episode of his Channel 4 show Giant Supermarket, is trying to expose the ‘hidden scandal’ of male dairy calves being shot.
You see, our love of milk and cheese comes with the uncomfortable truth that dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant. And while female calves grow up to become milk providers just like their mothers, male calves (if they’re not good for beef) are often killed straight after birth.
The most ethical answer to this problem is simply not to eat dairy products. However, it’s unlikely that a nation of meat-eaters will make the switch. Instead, as Jimmy and campaigning groups suggest, we could prevent thousands of male calves being shot and promote veal as a viable meat.
Rose veal = young pink beef
British rose veal has already had an ethical stamp of approval from the RSPCA and the animal welfare charity the Compassion in World Farming. And calves aren’t actually as young as you might expect. In fact, it’s suggested that it might be more accurate to call veal ‘young beef’. Jimmy, who’s raising veal calves on his own farm, told the Guardian:
‘It’s not about eating day-old baby cows – if you think that we slaughter chickens when they are 42 days old, lamb at five to six months, and pigs at five months – then at six to eight months, rose veal is the oldest of the lot.’
As for me, I’m known for eating almost anything (unless it’s mayonnaise), so I haven’t consciously steered away from veal. However, I would never have gone on a mission to find it in my local supermarket. Like foie gras, it’s not a product I’m totally comfortable with.
But after reading about how rose veal is pretty high in the welfare ‘steaks’, I might look out for it next year. So, will veal make it on to your shopping list?
Would you eat veal?
Yes, but only if it's ethical British veal (64%, 400 Votes)
No, I don't like the idea of veal (15%, 94 Votes)
Yes, where ever it's from (13%, 82 Votes)
No, I'm a vegetarian/vegan (8%, 50 Votes)
Total Voters: 627