I know this will, in all probability, split readers down the middle. But it shouldn’t. Even those who are regular meat-eaters may draw the line at veal. Imagining those baby cows is enough, I know, to put you off. But, more importantly, the reasons most of us are not keen is due to the cruel way many young calves are reared on the continent: The calf is confined to a crate, restricting it’s movements to weaken and decrease the size of the muscles. Combined with only a liquid diet low in iron and roughage, the meat is tender and pale, or white. Although crates have been banned since 2007 (1990 in the UK), slatted floors are still allowed, meaning the calf struggles to stand, and the space per animal is small. They have lower quantities of fibre in their diet than the UK minimum requirement.
So what happens to the male calves born to dairy cows? Well, since they don’t make good ‘beef’ and the demand for veal in the UK is minimal, many are shot within days of being born or exported to the continent, where they’re subjected to the above inhumane conditions.
In the UK, however, welfare standards are much higher. Crating has been illegal since 1990, and we have much stricter rules. British ‘rosé ’ veal, as it’s known, has pinkish, tender flesh. The calves lead a good quality life, being suckled by their mothers, eating natural food and living outdoors in the summer. Most calves actually enjoy a longer life than many pigs, living for about six months.
Now I don’t often get on my soapbox, but about this issue, there seems only one solution. It’s actually us, yes, you and me, who are subjecting the male dairy calves in the UK to being shot or sold abroad to lead an unenviable life. How? By not creating a great enough market so the British farmers can sell their young calves to local butchers and, dare I say it, supermarkets.
So I urge you to consider British Veal as an option next time you shop for your meat. It’s tender, tasty and, most of all, you’ll know that because the calves were raised in the UK, they enjoyed their short time on earth.
Taken from a recent Sunday Times supplement, this Veau a la Crème recipe seemed a fitting end to our night away in Ludlow, Shropshire, especially since the calves were born and raised on a farm in Bishops Castle, only 18 miles from where we bought it. The butcher had several cuts and could tell us all about the life it had. What more could you ask about your meat?
It’s really a classic combination, basically a mushroom and onion cream and white wine (ish) sauce, served over the fillets. But don’t forget, either flash-fry or slow cook your meat.
Fry the mushrooms in butter and a little olive oil in a hot pan with a good seasoning. Set to one side once browned.
Add a little more butter and wait until it’s foaming. Fry the veal slices quickly on each side. You may need to ‘batter’ them out a little first so they’re about a centimetre thick. Leave to one side nad keep warm.
Fry off the onions in the same pan, add a glass of sherry and a glass of stock. Leave to thicken and gloss, then add the cream. Tip the mushrooms back in once it’s thickened.
Check seasoning, return the veal slices to the pan to warm through and serve with squashed new potatoes and green vegetables. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Read more about ‘The Veal Debate’ here.