Origins & Information - (A-Z) Veal

With so many types of meats that are offered around, sometimes it's difficult to know what is what particularly if the name is uncommon to you. We all know about beef, pork, and chicken but what else is there? A menu item that appears somewhat frequently is veal but for some, it is an unfamiliar term. Veal can be served in a variety of ways; there are, however, only two basic ways of cooking it - through dry or moist heat. It can be roasted, grilled, fried, broiled, braised, stewed, mashed, or served as veal chops.

So what is veal? It does come from cows but it is named differently because of how it is produced and from what type of cows. Veal is most typically the meat of male calves which are born from milking cows (milking cows must give birth every year to keep up milk flow) and not turned into breeders. They may be raised on two types of diets - milk or grain based. The milk-raised calves typically produce light pink, finely textured, lean meat while the grain-raised calves are darker and fattier. There are five different types of veal that are determined by their weights as well as when they were slaughtered: bob veal (slaughtered after a few days of age, 70-150 lbs), milk-fed (slaughtered between 18-20 weeks, 450-500 lbs), grain-fed (slaughtered between 22-26 weeks, 650-700 lbs), rose veal (slaughtered around 35 weeks, UK-based), and free-raised (slaughtered around 24 weeks).

Regardless of when they are slaughtered, the meat stays quite tender and lean because of the lack of muscle growth in these calves. Veal is a hot topic of controversy based on the calves' living conditions which are described of as cruel. The calves are housed in stalls, crates, or hutches which limit the amount of movement they have (except for free-raised veal) to prevent a lot of muscle growth which leads to tougher meat. They are usually installed in these places for the remainder of their lives and have been said to be rife with various chemicals due to how often they get sick and require medicine. Conflicts between animal rights activists and the American Veal Association (and other related organizations) have led to some changes in production but has not completely eradicated the production of this meat. If you want to read more into the debates, make sure to read various sources so that you are not receiving falsified and exaggerated information!

This post is part of an A-Z series I am running for my blog category "Origins and Information" while I am in Vietnam with my family for July. Many of the posts in the series answer questions that were posed by friends/readers. If y'all enjoy the series, I will gladly run another in the future!