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The Case for Veal: The Meat Crusade Champions Ethical Rose Veal

Posted on: Oct 10 2012

As far as reputation goes, it's right up there with foie gras. Few things raise the hackles of thoughtful eaters quite like veal. But it’s time to dispel a few myths about veal, and consider the case for British rose veal.

The Meat Crusade, which campaigns to save the high street butcher, thinks it’s time to back this controversial and much misunderstood meat and put it back on the menu.

John Penny, Yorkshire farmer and wholesale butcher, explains, “The fact is, if you drink milk or eat cheese, it's crueller not to eat rose veal. Consider male dairy calves. Over a quarter of a million of them are killed each year. Unable to produce milk, obviously, and unsuitable for beef production, they are shot soon after birth as a "waste product" of the dairy industry. Either that or they're exported to Europe, where the continental craving for pale meat means their welfare is profoundly compromised.”
“We’ve seen a rise in enquiries from consumers for ethically produced rose veal which is a world apart from the crates and practices that gave veal a bad name a decade ago.”

British rose veal has already won the ethical stamp of approval from the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) but it remains a niche market in the UK, just 0.1% of the meat we consume each year.

“Rose veal calves are able to move around fields and graze so their meat has a redder tone, hence the name rose veal. And it's not about eating day-old baby cows – if you think that we eat chickens when they are 42 days old, lamb at five to six months, and pigs at five months – then at eight to twelve months, rose veal is the oldest of the lot. No one talks about that side of things,” explains Penny.

"Dairy calves are being shot at 24 to 48 hours old and if we drink milk we all have to share in this instead of leaving the burden of it to the farmers. Eating rose veal is utilising those calves and solving a problem," said Penny.

Dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant to feed our milk and cheese habit but while female calves can go on to replace their mothers in the dairy system; there is no market for the male calves of dairy breeds which aren't considered good for beef.
"The majority of veal being produced in Europe and imported into the UK isn't raised under conditions anything like our welfare standards. The calves have restricted milk diets to keep the meat white. Rose veal is slightly pink and has a lovely, lovely flavour and it's full of protein. I'd love to see more people eating it. It's not the cheapest so for a lot of people it would have to be a once-a-week meal.”

Penny and other campaigners claim that persuading British consumers to start eating rose veal –will go some way to address the "hidden scandal" of our love of milk that sees an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 male dairy calves shot within hours of birth.
"It's time to face our responsibilities: this is just a different kind of meat."

Luke Ryder, dairy adviser at the National Farmers Union said: "We do still have this perception that veal is bad but this rose veal is a high-welfare, high-quality product. Technically, they are no longer even calves when they are slaughtered so a more appropriate term would be young beef and I applaud campaigners for taking this up as we really do have to raise awareness of just how much more sustainable and viable a route this is for these calves."

"Buying rose veal certainly helps address some of this needless waste of animal life. If you want the assurance that your meat has been ethically reared, buy your meat from a reputable butcher, who can tell you exactly which farm it has come from and how it was reared.”

The Meat Crusade will be appearing at Countryside Live, 20-21 October at the Yorkshire Showground sampling Rose Veal. www.countrysidelive.co.uk



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Jay Rayner

The award winning Observer Food Critic and One show journalist.

Jay currently chairs the new Radio 4 food panel show, The Kitchen Cabinet, having recently appeared as judge on Masterchef and The Great British Waste Menu, and hosted Channel 4's magazine show Food: What Goes in your Basket?

Now, more than ever, we need to know where our meat is coming from, and your local butcher is best placed to give you that vital information. There is no substitute for buying your meat from the people who sourced it. They are the ones who know how it was raised, how it was slaughtered and how best to cook it. If we lose our local butchers we lose an irreplaceable part of the food chain.

Brian Turner

A popular face on our TV screens, Yorkshire-born Brian’s career started in less glamorous circumstances - cooking breakfasts at his dad's transport café.

Your local butcher really cares about the meat he sells and the people he sells to. He deserves your support- let’s not lose him now.

Joanna Blythman

Joanna Blythman is Britain’s leading investigative food journalist and an influential commentator on the British food chain. She has won four Glenfiddich awards for her writing, including a Glenfiddich Special Award for her first book, The Food We Eat, a Caroline Walker Media Award for Improving the Nation’s Health by Means of Good Food, and a Guild of Food Writers Award for The Food We Eat.

We need to cherish the excellent traditional butchers who have kept going valiantly in the teeth of the supermarket takeover of our food chain. As the Meat Crusade puts it, if one in 10 of us returned to our local butcher that would be make a real difference. And if one in five of us did so, even once a week, it could start a revolution.

Rosemary Shrager

Rosemary Shrager, talented TV chef and cookery school teacher, is renowned for her role on reality TV show, Ladette to Lady. Rosemary has worked for Pierre Koffman at the famous Tante Claire restaurant in London and also for super chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.

Rosemary’s TV career began with series Rosemary – Castle Cook, followed by Rosemary on the Road, both for Channel 5. She is now a familiar face on ITV, following up her Rosemary Shrager's School For Cooks series with regular appearances on The Alan Titchmarsh Show.

It is so important to support butchers, if we do not then they will go and then we really will miss them. These people know where all their food has come from, generally sourcing everything from the local area’s farmers. Support for your butcher is support for the wider farming community.

Tom Parker Bowles

Tom is a food writer and broadcaster with a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday and is Food Editor at Esquire magazine.
His books include E Is For Eating – An Alphabet of Greed, The Year of Eating Dangerously and Full English; A Journey Through the British and Their Food. He also co-presented Market Kitchen on Good Food Channel and presented LBC Radio's Food and Drink Programme.

The steady loss of our local butchers is cause for serious alarm. Just 2 months back my favourite butcher, Kingsland and Son, fell victim to a fierce rent hike and was forced to move out. The whole area is still reeling from the loss. Because butchery is both art and science. Not just in the physical act of separating different cuts from a carcass, but the wealth of knowledge any serious butcher has; where the meat comes from, how long the beef was hung, what cuts are better suited to braising than roasting. Support your local butchers. For the sake of the community, and your taste buds too.