Is it me, or is veal really hot right now? It got a lot of bad press a while back when the veal industry was exposed for being inhumane -- calves were separated from their mothers and kept in dark, narrow crates to keep the meat extra tender. Cruelty is not delicious, so people stopped eating veal.
But this year I heard about Strauss "Free Raised" veal and it looked really different: the calves stay with their mothers, aren't confined or tethered, can nurse freely with their grazing mothers, and aren't given hormones or antibiotics. Then I noticed some of my local, smaller family farms (Raindance and Slope Farms) were also producing veal under the same conditions. The veal is pink rather than white because the calves are getting more iron, but it's still as tender as, well, baby flesh.
This was good news to me because ... well ... I have a confession to make: I love eating baby animals. Is it really so evil? Let's take a look.
First of all, how old are the other animals we eat?
- Lamb is usually under a year old, though it's often slaughtered at around 6 to 7 months old. Meat from adults is called mutton and tends to be tougher and stronger in flavor.
- Pig is slaughtered anywhere from 4 months old (when it's around 40 pounds) to a year old (when it's up to 200 pounds), but from what I can tell, the most common ages are 6 to 9 months old. Suckling pigs are between 2 to 6 weeks old.
- Most beef is usually just under a year old, though grass-fed cattle are usually a few months older because they take longer to grow.
- Free-raised veal is around 6 to 7 months old.
So when you look at it that way, eating free-raised veal isn't that different from eating lamb. I do know that Animal Welfare Approved, a program that certifies family farms that use high-welfare methods of farming, generally frowns upon weaning calves before 6 months (in most cases). So there does seem to be something special about animals reaching the 6-month mark. But my question is, if you're going to kill the animal to eat it anyway, why does the age matter? What's with the taboo against eating immature animals?
Some people feel that living a humane life means living to see adulthood. Others consider the attachment mother cows might feel for their calves reason for not eating veal.
What do you think? Would you eat pasture-raised veal? And if not, do you still eat lamb?
Image via Strauss Free Raised Veal