Veal or no Veal?

Eating veal has something of a stigma these days; it is considered cruel by many. In English Food it appears quite often, either in veal recipes or as part of other recipes that you perhaps would not expect, for example, giblet gravy and chicken pie. Jane writes rather a long introduction to her Meat chapter discussing the problems of mass meat production and the decline of meat quality as well as those suppliers that try to produce good quality products. Nowhere in the introduction does she mention veal – beef, yes, at length, but not veal. I can only assume that in her opinion veal was always a good meat product (she has a poor opinion on the state of almost every other meat, and quite rightly). Indeed, it probably was, but certainly not from the poor veal calves’ point of view.

Rearing veal calves was notoriously cruel, and lumped together with fois gras production. The problem being that calves were kept in tiny darkened rooms to keep their meat white and tender. This practise is still common in many counties but is not allowed in the UK. Veal produced in British farms have a much higher standard in animal welfare; calves can eat grass after weaning and walk in the fields to produce rose veal – so-called due to the pale pink colour of the meat. This is obviously a good thing; I cannot see how anyone (vegetarians aside) can have issues with this. It is the same as eating lamb after all. For more information about the prevention of cruelty to animals in farms see the Farm Sanctuary website.


Veal production like this is still allowed in many countries

The point I would like to make is that NOT eating veal is cruel, or at least disrespectful. The dairy industry wants female cows for milk. Cows do not simply just produce milk all the time – which many people seem to think – like any mammal, they produce milk when they have given birth (or about to give birth) to calves. Female calves are a good thing for future milk production, but the poor old males are surplus to requirement and are generally killed. What a complete waste! A waste of food and a waste of life! People seem to coming round to the idea – even Marks and Spencer have a line in rose veal!

All British rose veal is produced with welfare in mind

I intend to tackle some of the veal recipes in the book – I have been biding my time because I want a good supplier. I believe I have found one too: Winter Tarn in Cumbria is an organic farm that produces cheese but have recently started selling veal though they don’t really mention it on their website. They attend many regional farmers’ markets. The quality of the meat is very good, and most importantly, I think, they don’t charge the Earth like many other organic veal suppliers seem to think they can do. Check out their website here.

My consignment arrived the other day, stewing veal, minced veal, tongue, kidney, liver and bones for stock. Not all of the items are for recipes from English Food, the offal is essentially just to cook anyway – veal offal is highly prized, but I have never tried it, so I seized the opportunity.
I shall keep you informed of my progress, natch.

A note on meat…

As well as trying to get to the bottom of what English Food actually is and perhaps discovering some lost foods, it’s also important that the food is as close to how it should be eaten. What do I mean by that? I mean the meat, eggs, etc. should come from good quality, healthy, free-range animals. This does of course mean that things are rather more expensive that if I’d go to the supermarket and buy those alarmingly white chicken breasts or surprisingly bright blood red pieces of meat in plastic boxes. However to do the English thing, animals will be eaten, so it is important that they were at least happy. Of course healthy animals with no stress hormones or antibiotics running through their veins are tastier. So I shall get meat, poultry and game from reputable butchers and farms (and fishmongers of course). I will give out their details, like websites, etc., as I go.