The meat of animals, killed for consumption, will always be a disputed issue in today’s society and no country is immune to the controversies. Across Asia, dog is commonplace on menus; in Greenland, the melting ice caps aren’t the only thing putting polar bears at risk, as they are targets of traditional Arctic Aborigine hunts; and as well as indulging in whale bacon, the Japanese serve fish, so fresh that their fins are still flapping and their hearts are still beating.
Back on our shores the controversy not only surrounds the inclusion of horse meat in our burgers. The beef here is with veal.
What some argue is a delicious meat, others see it as a barbaric practice. Whatever your view, Marcross Dairy Farm is endeavouring to reverse all negative conations surrounding the industry after recently diversifying from purely dairy production, into raising veal.
What’s the veal?
The fact that the meat is that of a calf, is where many of the issues surrounding it, are derived.
“Cruelty is inherent in all veal and other meat production,” argues Ben Williamson of PETA. “Cows naturally suckle their calves for nine months to a year, but calves are taken away from their mothers within one to three days of birth.”
Echoing this is vegan campaigning group Viva! “Veal is the flesh of calves who were born and are almost immediately separated from cows,” says Veronika Powell, a Viva! Campaigner.
They claim the blame lies with the dairy industry. Dairy cows give birth in order to continue milk production. With a distinct lack of udders, bull calves are “unwanted by-products,” says Veronika. “If calves cannot be raised for veal or to replenish the herd, they are killed shortly after birth,” she continues.
Traditionally, the calves were taken at birth, kept in cramped conditions and fed only milk. This practice is commonplace across continental Europe and leads to a paler meat, hence the name white veal.
The rearing of white veal is perhaps what has jaded the industry and slapping it with a “bad reputation,” says Louise Evans of Marcross Farm.
The lack of legroom and a poor diet for these calves makes white veal just as bad as foie gras, claims prominent Cardiff butcher, Martin Player. “It should not be allowed,” he authoritively states. As a butcher, he believes “that every animal should be reared humanely and given the best life it can have. That includes space, good diet and best farming practices.”
It seems that a bull calf, born to a dairy cow, has two options at birth; the shotgun or a short life confined to a crate. Right?
Wrong. There’s an alternative; rose veal.
A fairer deal for veal
It is this common misconception that brother and sister combo, Hopkin and Louise Evans of Marcross Farm, are attempting to distinguish.
“It’s got such a bad rep over here from what was going on in the eighties and nineties with white veal,” says Louise. “That’s the image people have in their heads.”
As fourth generation dairy farmers, they grew up watching the useless bull calves being killed.
“The female ones go into the herd and you keep them on the farm, then the male calves traditionally don’t have a value, so for years they have been destroyed at birth, which is absolutely horrendous and is the worst part of the whole industry,” says Louise.
This “needless wasting” of calves was what prompted them to diversify into the raising of veal and walking around the farm, it is a far cry from calves in crates ripped from their mothers at birth.
They are fed a richer diet, supplemented with straw and hay, and are reared in open pens. Allowed to exercise and eat a nutritious diet, they have pinker meat, hence the name rose veal.
“They are raised by us and for the first five days they have their mothers’ milk. They are hand fed in open pens,” explains Hopkin.
Rose veal is a “a good idea,” says Martin. “Rather than shoot a bull calf when it is born, it is allowed to be reared humanely, even if it is a short life.”
This short life however is not that short when put into perspective. “It’s kept longer than lamb, longer than things like suckling pig and a lot longer than some chickens that you get in a supermarket,” Louise states and she’s not wrong. A veal calf is raised to around eight months, yet chickens are killed at just 42 days old, whilst lamb and pigs live to approximately six months.
Your views on veal
The issue of the calves’ ages was a recurring theme in our poll. Some claimed they were too young, yet many said that if they eat lamb, then there’s nothing wrong with eating veal.
To supplement the reader’s views in the poll, the public of Cardiff were asked their views on veal.
Rose tinted glasses
The meat industry will always be surrounded with controversy and the ultimate decision whether to eat veal is up to the consumer. People often look at the veal industry with rose tinted glasses, conjuring up images of crates and crying calves, yet the reality of rose veal does not reflect this.
What do you think? Veal or no veal?