What Is Veal and Why the Controversy?

Most people think that veal simply means the meat of a baby cow. While this is technically true, it is no way indicative of the whole picture. I must stress that personally, I love meat, but investigating the story of veal did indeed make me a little queasy.

Veal is in fact a by-product of the dairy industry. When a dairy-producing cow has a male offspring, that is used to make veal. The female offspring are left alone to become the next generation of dairy cow, but the males are not quite so lucky. Within moments of birth, the male calf is separated from it's mother so that she can go back to producing milk. Some are slaughtered immediately for a prized type of veal called "bob veal" – they rarely see the light of day for more than few hours. Most are placed inside a small crate and fed an amenia-inducing diet where the lack of movement and oxygen cause their muscles to atrophy – this means the meat is extremely soft and succulent compared to grown beef cattle. This is where the whole controversy enters into it, with animal rights campaigners arguing that the conditions that they raised in are cruel.

While most people are happy to eat beef that they know has come from a free-range cattle, fed properly and allowed to live to maturity before being slaughtered for our consumption, I'd wager that knowing the conditions leading to veal would probably make you decline to eat it. The fact is that many butchers refuse to even stock veal meat today, and those that do have a tough time when customers find out.