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veal calf

Ever wondered what becomes of male dairy cows? Cows that produce milk are, of course, female. So what happens to the males? We eat them, surely? Well actually no, not often.

Dairy cows are bred to be great at producing milk. But unfortunately, this is at the expense of their meat and most dairy cows are considered to produce inferior beef. And it’s worth a lot less than regular beef to the farmer.

So normally, to save the cost and bother of rearing them, male dairy cows are shot at birth.

Last year 260,000 male calves were disposed of as a waste product of the UK dairy industry.

A few more were spared being shot and were exported to the continent and used to create traditional white veal. Whether you consider these ones the lucky ones is a matter of your point of view.

White veal, as is fairly well known, is a pretty cruel way to produce meat. In order to keep the meat white, the animals are kept in crates and deprived of light and they’re fed only on a diet of milk. It’s a practice that was banned in the UK in 1990 but still continues in France, Italy and other European countries.

However, there is an alternative, which is growing in popularity.

British ‘rose ‘ veal.

It’s called rose veal because the meat is pink not white. It’s pink because the animals lead a more natural life: in daylight and eating grass, as well as their mother’s milk. It’s being promoted by the RSPCA as a much less cruel alternative to killing the animal before it has had a chance to live.

And because it is young, it still makes good meat. It’s like really tender beef.

Typically British veal calves have a lifespan of 6-8 months. This is no worse than lamb. Lamb is of course called lamb because it is a young sheep. The definition of lamb is a sheep less than 12-months old. After that it becomes mutton.

Killing an animal at birth seems incredibly cruel and wasteful. But without consumer demand for meat from male dairy cows, it is inevitably what will happen to them. Unless they are packed off to France for an even worse fate.

So if you eat milk, cheese and butter, then you should consider eating veal too. Possibly even if you’re a veggy that eats dairy. They are all products of the dairy industry. And if you consume milk, then you are in some small way responsible for the male calves.

If you buy some veal escalopes or veal mince instead of regular beef, you are also reducing the demand for regular beef, which as has been discussed a lot in the press recently, has a fairly large environmental impact.

Rose veal is becoming pretty widely available and the supermarkets seem to be increasingly stocking escallops, mince and other British veal. As with all meat, free-range or organic is the best choice as it means there are much higher welfare standards.

Fewer than one in 100 people eat veal in the UK. But what many of us have considered to be one of the most unethical culinary choices over recent years, could actually can be one of the most ethical. And we can be smug about being more caring than the French.

Excellent. Who’s for a veal burger?

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