Reconsidering Veal


Tender, nutritious, and versatile, there's plenty reason to reconsider this protein choice.  The icing on the cake?  Veal is surprisingly sustainable.  More on its humble origins and why you should eat it, here.

Confession: as a Master of Beef Advocacy (someone who just wants to help you enjoy all that cow goodness!), I'm embarrassed by my ignorance about veal.  So when I had the chance to meet some farmers and tour a processing facility last week, I jumped on the opportunity.

If you're anything like me, you might have enjoyed veal on occasion, but perhaps been bothered by some preconceived notions.  As one fellow tour-goer put it, "I've always imagined them as baby cows, holding little rattles and being torn from their mothers!"  Well, I found out that's quite a stretch!

Here, some straight facts about veal.

1.  Veal is a "byproduct" of the dairy industry.

So, this is really heartening from an environmental perspective.  When a dairy cow births a female calf, she joins mom and becomes a dairy cow herself.  Male calves, on the other hand, can either go on to be fed for beef (a lengthy process for a dairy calf, as their frame is not built to put on size as easily as those breeds raised for beef), or veal. 

2.  Veal calves recycle dairy "leftovers."

So, we've got this animal who can't lactate and has a hard time putting on size.  What to do?  Feed him milk - more specifically, whey protein.  Calves spend the bulk of their lives on a diet of whey fortified with heart-healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.  Sounds like my post-workout shake!  And where does this whey come from?  Cheese production.  

3.  Veal calves need to be treated like...babies!

You're probably wondering: what's with the lack of pics on this post?!  While I would have loved to post from a veal farm, the logistics of that are challenging.  To my moms (and most especially, fellow NICU moms): remember those first weeks of your infant's life?  Much like their human counterparts, calves raised for veal need to be protected from infection and therefor can't host many visitors.  Rest assured they're being cared for by cohesive families (more below).

4.  Most veal farmers are Amish or Mennonite.

Raising veal gives these communities* an opportunity to work in the capacity they love best: with family.  The veal calf lifecycle is 20-22 weeks (side note: in comparison to the beef lifecycle which can be as many months), and the same family farm will care for each herd until it is ready for processing.  Just as these groups live a life absent of day-to-day technological conveniences, their business is no different.  Here's their view on photos.  

5.  Veal packs a nutritious punch!

Bottom line: veal offers approximately 27g of melt-in-your-mouth protein for a mere 166 calories per 3 oz. cooked serving.  Try subbing it in for chicken in any recipe that calls for thin-pound cutlets; add it to your meatball mix, or try any of the test-kitchen approved recipes here.  

*Source: Raising Today’s Veal Presentation by Donna Moenning, Program Manager for Veal Quality Assurance, Look East.

Enjoy your veal.  Enjoy your life!