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Veal is the meat of young cattle (calf). Though veal can be produced from a calf of either sex and any breed, most veal comes from male calves of dairy cattle breeds. Compared to beef, veal has a delicate taste and tender texture.

Types

There are five types of veal:
  • Bob veal, from calves that are slaughtered when only a few days old (70-100lb.) up to 150 lb. (USAmarker only)
  • Formula-fed (or "milk-fed") veal, from calves that are raised on a nutritionally complete milk formula supplement. The meat colour is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine and velvety appearance. Usually slaughtered when they reach 18–20 weeks of age (450-500 lb).
  • Non-formula-fed ("red" or "grain-fed") veal, from calves that are raised on grain, hay or other solid food, in addition to milk. The meat is darker in colour, and some additional marbling and fat may be apparent. Usually marketed as calf, rather than veal, at 22–26 weeks of age (650-700 lb).
  • Rosé veal UKmarker is from calves reared on farms in association with the UK RSPCA's Freedom Food programme. Its name comes from its pink colour, which is a result of the calves being slaughtered at around 35 weeks.
  • Free-raised veal, first introduced in the United States in January 2008, the veal calves are born and raised in the pasture, have unlimited access to mother’s milk and pasture grasses, and are free to roam alongside their mothers and herd on open pastures. Free-raised veal calves are not reared in confinement or in feedlots, and are not administered hormones or antibiotics. These conditions replicate those used to raise authentic pasture-raised veal. The meat may be a richer pink color, indicative of an all-natural diet and healthy iron consumption. Free-raised veal typically has less fat than conventionally-raised veal or chicken. The free-raising method is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Calves are harvested at about 24 weeks of age (450-500 lb).


The veal industry's support for the dairy industry goes beyond the purchase of surplus calves. It also buys large amounts of milk by-products. Almost 70% of veal feeds (by weight) are milk products. Most popular are whey and whey protein concentrate (WPC), by-products of the manufacture of cheese. Milk by-products are sources of protein and lactose. Skimmed milk powder, casein, buttermilk powder and other forms of milk by-products are used from time to time.

Culinary uses

Boneless veal cutlets
Veal has been an important ingredient in Italian and French cuisine since ancient times. The veal is often in the form of cutlets, such as the Italian cotoletta or the famous Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel. Some classic French veal dishes include: fried escalopes, fried veal grenadines (small thick fillet steaks), stuffed paupiettes, roast joints and blanquette. As veal is lower in fat than many meats, care must be taken in preparation to ensure that it does not become tough. Veal is often coated in preparation for frying or eaten with a sauce.

In addition to providing meat, the bones of calves are used to make a stock that forms the base for sauces and soups such as demi-glace. The stomachs are also used to produce rennet, used in the production of cheese. Calf offal is also widely regarded as the most prized of animal offal. Most valued are the liver, sweetbreads, kidney and spinal marrow. The head, brains, tongue, feet and mesentery are also valued.

Production

Birth

Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry and comes from male dairy calves. Veal in the United States contributes $250 million to the America's dairy industry. Since female calves are used to produce milk and beef, use of male calves is limited, outside of breeding. Around half of all calves born in dairy farming are actually female.

New born calves are given a varied amount of time with their mothers, which could be anything between only just a few hours to a few days.

Housing

There are primarily three different types of housing used for veal calves: hutches, stalls, or various types of group housing.

While calves are young and most vulnerable to disease, they are kept in hutches, which keep them warm and isolated. Food, water, and straw bedding are freely available to the calves. Attention is paid to individual calves to monitor feed consumption and health. When they are less vulnerable, they are moved to either stalls or group housing.



Free-raised or pasture-raised veal calves require no housing, barns or facilities. Calves freely roam open pastures with their mothers and herd.

Feeding

Milk-fed veal calves consume a diet consisting of milk replacer, formulated with mostly milk-based proteins with added vitamins and minerals to provide a balanced nutritional solution. This type of diet relates to infant formula and is also one of the most common diets used for calfs in the veal industry.

Grain-fed calves normally consume a diet of milk replacer for the first 6–8 weeks. The calves then move onto a grain-based diet (mostly corn-based), that contains many vitamins and minerals.

Free Raised calves are raised on an open pasture and receive of diet of mother's milk, grass, and fresh water. Furthermore, free raised calves do not receive drugs such as hormones or antibiotics, which is often a focus of criticism amongst animal welfare organizations.

Animal welfare

Veal is a controversial issue in terms of animal welfare.

Multiple animal welfare organizations, whom strongly focus factory farming, attempt to educated consumers about several veal production procedures that are considered in-humane. This education has proven successful, with the recently announced improvements in the veal industry.

A strong animal welfare movement concerning veal started in the 80's with the release of photographs of veal calves tethered in crates where they could barely move. After the release of these photographs, veal sales have plummeted, and have never recovered.

Many veal farmers listened to the concern of their customers and have started improving conditions in their veal farms.

Several large veal producers in the United States (Strauss Brands, Marcho Farms, and Catelli Brothers, Inc.), as well as the American Veal Association, have happily announced that they plan to phase out the use of crates, which is often the main focus of controversy in veal farming.

Criticism with veal crates evolves around the facts that the veal calfs are highly restricted of movement, have unsuitable flooring, spend their entire lives indoors, experience prolonged sensory, social, and exploratory deprivation, and are more susceptible to high amounts of stress and disease.Though, according to the Veal Quality Assurance Program & Veal Issues Management Program industry fact sheet, and the Ontario Veal Association, individual housing systems are important for disease control, and in reducing the possibility of physical injury. Furthermore, they state that it also allows for veal farmers to provide more personal attention to veal calfs, being in individual crates.

Alternative agricultural practices for using male dairy calves include raising bob veal (slaughter at 2 or 3 days old), raising calves as "red veal" without the severity of dietary restrictions needed to create pale meat (resulting in fewer antibiotic treatments and fewer slauthered calves), and as dairy beef.

When it comes to the centuries-old method of free raised veal, calves never experience the stress of confinement, separation from their mothers and herd-mates, or an unnatural diet. Many veal producers are realizing this, and the demand for free raised veal is rapidly increasing.

In 2007, less that 5% of veal calves were raised in a free raised environment. In 2009, this has increased to 35%.

Vermont bob veal slaughterhouse closure

In November of 2009, a slaughterhouse certified as an organic processor in Vermont specializing in bob veal was closed after a series of continuous cases of inhumane treatment towards veal calves. Inhumane treatment, in this situation, involved calved appeared to have been skinned alive, kicked, dragged, and shocked while conscious.

A USDAmarker Food Safety and Inspection Service inspector was shown in this video investigation coaching a slaughterhouse worker on ways to avoid having the facility being shut down.Though, the USDA, with the Vermont Agriculture Agency actually did shut the facility down. The undercover investigation video that resulted in the closure of this slaughterhouse can be seen here.

An organic dairy farmer in a different area in Vermont claims the following:

Furthermore, a spokeswomen for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture stated this:

Drug usage in veal

The USDA does not approve the use of hormones on veal calves for any reason, with the exclusion for use in ruminating cattle, which is not related to veal.

The USDA does approve antibiotics in veal raising to treat or prevent disease.

In 2004, an official of the USDA found a lump on a veal calf in a Wisconsin veal farm. This lump turned out to be an illegal hormone implant (such implants are only allowed legally for adult cows). Through further investigation, it was understood that around 90% of veal calves in the U.S. were fed synthetic testosterone illegally. The American Veal Association has confessed that this practice has been going for 30 years.

The USDA expresses concern that the use of illegal drugs might be widespread in the veal industry.

The USDA claims, in relation to Penicillin, the following:

Veal crate bans

The following shows where veal crates have been banned, or are currently in the process of being banned:

Europe

Veal crates became illegal in the UKmarker in 1990, and a full ban has been placed for the entire European Union, as of 2007.

USA

Crates are slowly being banned in the United Statesmarker. As stated above, several large veal producers are working on phasing out veal crates, as well as the American Veal Association.State-by-state veal crate bans are as follows:

Current active legislation in:
  • New York Statemarker (proposed in May of 2009, if passed: planned to take effect in 2015)
  • Massachusettsmarker (proposed in January of 2009, if passed: planned to take effect in 2015)


References

  1. BBC Food - Food matters - Is veal cruel?
  2. Calves and antibiotic residues
  3. milk-fed veal definition
  4. Grain-Fed definition in Recommended Code of Practice for Raising Farm Animals
  5. The Appeal of Veal
  6. What is Free Raised Veal?
  7. Veal could be sold from the dairy case -Delft Blue
  8. Montagné, P.: New Concise Larousse Gatronomique, page 1233. Hamlyn, 2007
  9. CCFA - Veal Calves
  10. GoVeg.com - American Veal Association Pledge
  11. Veal Farm Industry Facts
  12. Ontario Veal - All About Veal Housing
  13. OFAC.org Veal issue center
  14. Veal Farm FAQ
  15. HSUS Welfare of Veal Calves
  16. NYTimes - Veal to Love, Without the Guilt
  17. Washington Post - Veal, Cast in a Kinder Light
  18. CFHS on veal crates
  19. Veal Assoc. Recommends Group Housing
  20. Humane Food - Veal Facts
  21. Sargeant JM, Blackwell TE, Martin W, et al. Production indices, calf health and mortality on seven red veal farms in Ontario. Can J Vet Res 1994;58:196-201.
  22. Maas J, Robinson PH. Preparing Holstein steer calves for the feedlot. Vet Clin Food Anim 2007;23:269-279
  23. Strauss Veal Recipes
  24. Straussveal homepage
  25. Free-raised American Veal
  26. HSUS - Strauss & Marco Veal Crates
  27. Boston - Veal Slaughterhouse closed down
  28. CBS News - Stories - Veal Slaughterhouse Closure
  29. WCAX Veal slaughterhouse closure
  30. HSUS - Veal Investigation
  31. USDA's Veal Factsheet
  32. PETA Veal Factsheet
  33. usatoday.com: Illegal hormones found in veal calves
  34. CIWF on Veal Crates (UK ban on bottom of page)
  35. CFHA - Veal Crates
  36. independent.org - Europe Plan for Veal Crate Ban
  37. University of Nebraska - Cali. Veal
  38. Arizona Bans Veal
  39. Oregon Bans Veal
  40. Colorado Bans Veal
  41. Maine Bans Veal
  42. Michigan Veal Ban
  43. Possible NY Veal Ban
  44. Possible Massachusetts Veal Ban


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