Good Food Blog
Is veal a four letter word?Posted at 12:58PM, 10 March 2008 by Dom Dwight - food writer
What do ice cream and veal have in common? No, it's not a joke. Think about it for a moment - can you think of anything further apart than a sweet bowl of vanilla ice cream and the meat of a young calf?
The answer is they're both results of the dairy industry. It might seem obvious to some, but it was only recently that I had my eyes opened to the subject of veal. I knew what it was of course, but my attitude to it was based on all the horror stories of crated calves raised in total darkness. To be honest, I thought my policy of not eating it at all was the best course of action to retain a clear conscience. I get the feeling I'm not alone.
It took a conversation with Robert Moore from Brymor Dairy in Wensleydale to set me straight - I'd never considered that veal actually presents a solution to a big problem. To continue producing milk, dairy cows need to calve. If their calves are female they can be raised to become milkers themselves. But when they're male there's a problem. Dairy breeds don't make good beef, so the choice is brutally simple: dispose of them immediately after birth, or sell them to be raised for veal on the continent, which means travelling hundreds of miles in crates and then living in awful conditions to make 'white veal'.
There's a third option though - rear it here, in decent conditions and sell it as British rose veal. That's what Brymor do, and they're well known to do a good job of it. The trouble is, for it to catch on, there needs to be a market, and that's where we come in.
It took a different conversation to see that, this time with Gip Dammone, one of a pair of brothers running the hugely popular Italian restaurant Salvo's in Headingley. Gip long ago took veal off the menu - he wasn't comfortable serving Dutch white veal. He tells me he'd love to serve British rose veal, but he's got two problems: getting hold of enough of it, and the price. His worry is that people wouldn't buy - they'd either steer clear because it's veal, or they'd baulk at the seemingly 'inflated' prices.
In the course of two conversations, I found myself doing a complete U-turn: is buying veal - British veal - actually more 'responsible' than avoiding it altogether? Doesn't everyone who consumes dairy products share a responsibility for what happens to the male calves?
What do you think? Is veal still a four letter word to you?