What Is Veal?

You may have seen veal on a menu at a restaurant or come across veal products in a butcher or grocery store, but what is it?  There can be some confusion between veal and other types of meat such as venison. 

What is Veal

In this article, we will look at what veal is, how it is raised, and how to ensure that you are getting the best veal from your butcher or store.

What Is Veal?

While veal can sometimes be confused with venison, they are completely different meats from different animals.  Venison meat comes from deer, whereas veal comes from young calves. 

More often than not, veal comes from male calves that will not be able to provide value in the dairy industry and will not be raised as a stud.  

There are commonly two different varieties of veal that you can purchase.  White veal is so called because of its pale color and is known for being incredibly tender meat. 

These characteristics are the result of a restricted diet and very minimal exercise during the calf’s lifespan. 

The other variety of veal is known as rose veal which features a darker color that is more in keeping with the pink or red tones that would be expected of beef products. 

Rose veal is just as tender as white veal and the color mostly comes from the movement that the calf gets and a healthy diet.  

When a calf is raised to produce veal, it is often not fed on its mother’s milk.  Instead, it is fed on milk powder, much like the formula we use to feed our babies. 

Rose veal is likely to have also been fed on grass or hay and calf replacer pellets which are a more nutrient-dense version of powdered milk. 

If you are looking to purchase the most ethical veal that is available, rose veal is the better choice as the calves are given more space and freedom to move rather than being kept in a crate or barn. 

How Is Veal Raised?

In the USA, veal is raised in a standard way.  They are often kept in group pens where they are provided with enough space to stand, stretch, groom, lie down, and socialize with the other calves. 

Calves that are being raised for veal are not generally tethered or raised in crates in the US, although they are not often provided with outside pastures either.  

The well-being and health of calves that are being raised for veal are extremely important to farmers.  As a result, these calves are often raised in well-ventilated barns that are capable of keeping the cattle cool in the summer and warm throughout the winter. 

The nutrition of the calves is also a priority for veal farmers and as such, they are often fed very nutrient-dense diets.  This helps ensure the quality of meat and prevent sickness within the herd.

In instances where calves do become sick and antibiotics are required, standard waiting periods are implemented to ensure that no calves sent for slaughter contain antibiotics that could contaminate the meat. 

In the name of food safety standards, veal calves are never dehorned, castrated, or tethered, nor are they given hormonal implants.

What is Veal

How To Purchase Quality Veal

Veal is readily available in most grocery stores in the US as well as butchers around the country.  If a grocery store is your only source of meat, the best quality veal comes from a grocery store that has its own butcher’s counter. 

Prepackaged veal may be cheaper, but of a lower quality than cuts that are fresh from the counter. 

It may be possible in some stores to purchase veal that has been packaged on site by the in-house butchers which will be of the same quality as meat that is purchased directly from the counter.  

If you do have a butcher local to where you live and it is within your budget they are likely to have the highest quality cuts of veal available.  This is particularly true if you live somewhere rural or semi-rural and the veal has been raised and slaughtered on a local farm. 

This also makes the meat more traceable which ensures a higher quality of care is given to the animals than it would be in a larger production facility. 

How To Cook Veal

There are many ways in which you can prepare veal, the best way to cook it depends on the cut that you have purchased.  The most common cuts of veal that are available include ribs, chops, shanks, and ground veal.  

Ground veal is great for making chilis, burgers, and other recipes that call for the use of ground meat.  Veal is great as a middle ground between beef and turkey in ground meat recipes.  It has less fat than beef but is more flavorsome than turkey.  

Veal ribs are one of the most affordable cuts of veal and are easy to prepare.  Much like any other ribs they can be seared and then finished in the oven. 

They can also be slowly cooked, although will likely need less time than other ribs due to their smaller size.  

Veal shanks are a great alternative to lamb (You might want to check out muttons here) shanks and are perfect for slow cooking.  The meat should fall off the bone in the same way as a lamb shank, but the fat content is much lower and therefore, it is a healthier option.  

Finally, veal chops are the most versatile cut.  They can be cooked as they are, made into breaded scallops, or even grilled as medallions.   You can also get great results by braising this cut of veal to produce a tender, juicy, and flavorful dish. 

Final Thoughts

Veal is a very versatile, affordable meat that still carries a less than favorable reputation.  However, with changing farming laws and practices, veal is an ethical and delicious meat that can provide the main component of many types of meals.  


Jeff Pratt
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