Cooking Farming Thinking

Veal: the tender meat with ethical credentials

27th June 2018

Farmdrop is selling a new selection of limited edition ‘rare meats’ with bold flavours and unique heritage. We’ll be profiling each new release so keep your eyes peeled for new announcements. First up… veal.

Veal meat has been revered by food lovers for centuries. A succulent and tender meat, historically reserved for celebrations, the ‘fatted calf’ is the centrepiece of many famous european dishes like Vitello tonnato and Wiener schnitzel. Unfortunately, mainstream veal production has been undermined by blatant animal cruelty. Fortunately for all of us who don’t want to compromise welfare for taste, a group of British farmers are showing that this fabulous meat can be produced in an ethical way.

What is it?

Veal is meat from a young calf, and typically a male from a dairy herd. Dairy cows must produce calves to make milk but the males have no value, meaning they are either shot at birth or exported to Europe in terrible conditions. Neither of these outcomes are fair to the animal. The answer?  A handful of dairy farmers have started rearing male calves on their farm to sell on as veal. These calves are reared to a high-welfare standard, with straw bedding, and live out a contented life to around 8 months old (several months older than lamb).

Why has veal got a reputation?

Veal meat got a terrible reputation in the 1980s owing to the appalling welfare conditions male calves were kept in. Reared in confined crates, with no room to turn around, and fed a low iron diet to preserve the white colour of the meat, veal came to epitomise everything that was wrong with intensive animal farming. Fortunately, crate conditions like this have been banned since 1990 in the UK and since 2007 in the EU.

Why are people eating it?

In truth, not many people are, and that’s the problem. Veal accounts for just 0.1% of meat bought in Britain today. Low demand means dairy farmers often find it easier to kill male calves at birth or export them to Europe where welfare standards are lower.

As an unavoidable by-product of the dairy industry, it’s much better for everyone involved if we develop a taste for it. Thankfully, a new generation of British farmers are producing higher welfare veal with calves kept in open barns or outside, with plenty of bedding, and a diverse diet. This British veal is often marketed as rose veal owing to its slightly darker colour which comes from its longer length of life, freedom to roam, and the addition of grain or forage to their diet.

Veal from Farmdrop

Farmdrop’s new selection of veal cuts comes from the male Jersey calves on the organic Home Farm at Neston Park in Wiltshire (just outside Bath). The Jersey cows produce high-quality organic milk, which in turn makes the famous Baronet cheese. It’s also sold under the Ivy House Farm Dairy label, found not only on Farmdrop but also Fortnum & Masons, Harrods and Selfridges. These Jersey calves are fed on rich, organic Jersey whole milk for 12 weeks in straw-bedded pens and gradually weaned onto grass and grains produced on the farm.

During spring and summer, they graze on species-rich pasture, and are housed in large airy sheds with straw beds during the winter months. Animals are delivered to a small local abattoir only 15 minutes from the farm. This is a high-welfare, great tasting meat that is well worth celebrating.

How to eat it

For the escalopes, try classic veal Milanese. Simply coat the escalope in flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs before frying in a hot pan with oil and butter until golden on each side. Serve with a light salad. For the veal mince, try using it as a richer alternative in your next Bolognese or for your next batch of homemade burgers. 

Check out Farmdrop’s range of veal cuts here


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