/ Food & Drink

Will veal catch on with British meat-eaters?

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

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Eating UK or rose veal and increasing the demand for it is the best way of reducing the export of calves or culling of male calves.
If you want to reduce this waste canvas your butcher or supermarket for UK veal or stop using dairy products altogether

Jonny says:
29 May 2012

“More ethical’ is a term that I am not comfortable with. The notion that is better to kill an animal when it is 6 to 8 months old rather than one day old, baffles me. For me, both options are wrong. To argue that it is better to have existed for 6 to 8 months than one day seems quite flimsy. All this suffering and debate because of the crazy need to drink cow mammary juice.

Judith says:
4 June 2012

Thank you! The fact that we think drinking the milk of another species is best for us is ridiculous. Countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. It’s obvious it’s so unhealthy for us, and that includes all other animal products. It’s disgusting to think that it’s somehow “compassionate” to let an animal live a few extra months before he’s killed.

Justine says:
7 June 2012

I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of the issue of meat eating and/or drinking milk, I just wanted to explain the ‘ethical’ bit. Rose veal is more ‘ethical’ than ordinary veal because the animal is not crated in the dark and force fed milk as is the case with ordinary veal. Rose veal calves are free range.

That is why it’s called more ethical, because of the way it’s reared.

Itseasytohaveideals says:
12 June 2012

That’s because you are a black and white thinker, and not capable of shades of grey, which is what life is actually like. What are your crazy needs by the way….do you eat rice? Do you know how much suffering goes into producing that? Women and children bent over breaking their backs so you can have your rice cakes?


I thought that rose veal calves are fed a rather poor diet and had little opportunity to exercise, even though they are not treated as badly as white veal calves. If the RSPCA is happy with this then perhaps we should not worry.

I don’t see that the age when an animal is killed is significant.

Gerry74d says:
29 May 2012

If We can promote British meat from our farmer’s, reducing the carbon foot print on the products on the shelf aswell as increasing the value and taste being fed to our families I for one would stand by this product. Even the filled meatballs looked great if these are not brought onto the shelves I might just be pushed to try and buy Veal from my local butcher and try to emulate what jimmy’s done.
Just tell me where I can buy ‘Jimmy’s Veal’ ?

Catherine says:
29 May 2012

After watching Jimmy’s programme it has opened my eyes. I will definitely be making it a priority to buy British rose veal in the future and we should all be more aware of where are meat comes from and how it lives before we buy it. I am glad that someone has spoken out about this issue and I believe the supermarkets should take more of a responsibility. I am only 19 and a student at University and if me and my friends are willing to pay a little more for meat sourced responsibly then everyone should be, even if this means eating less meat but of a better quality I think it’s worth it. I do understand that it is more expensive but if we’re willing to eat the meat we should care about its welfare before it reaches our plates.