Why Buy Rosé Veal?
By: Jimmy Doherty
Veal meat is an emotive issue, but the situation today is not as clear cut as it once was.
Veal has suffered an image problem since the 1980s because of what I think are justified concerns over how the calves were raised. Back then, animals were kept tethered in small crates. One of the reasons for this was to restrict movement and prevent the formation of tougher, redder meat - but protests by animal rights campaigners led to a full ban on veal crates in the UK by 1990.
Thirty years on, the stigma remains and there has been little appetite for veal in the UK. But I believe this should change, and for good reason.
In order to keep up milk production, cows have to calve regularly. The heifers can be reared for milkers, but the bull calves are relatively small animals and don't make good beef cattle. There is currently no large scale market for them here in the UK.
As a result, dairy farmers up and down the country are forced to either slaughter their male calves shortly after birth (at a day or two old) or send them to the Continent, to be reared for veal in welfare standards much lower than our own, and often very poor.
An estimated 100,000 dairy calves were culled at birth in 2010 and over 16,000 were exported to the Continent for veal (source: CIWF - Beyond Calf Exports Forum Report).
British veal calves are raised to much higher welfare standards and seem the perfect solution to this senseless waste. But first, consumers must be convinced they are not supporting that same industry from the 1980s.
High welfare veal is known as 'rosé veal', because calves are not restricted to the low-iron diet that produces the white meat reared on the Continent. The low-fat, pink-coloured meat that results is delicious and can be eaten with a clear conscience.
I am passionate about this problem and am working to change the system, which currently isn't working and is a tragic waste.
Animal rights groups like the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming are now campaigning to get rosé veal on our plates and shopping lists. We all remember those images of calves crammed in crates but this is a limited, outdated and flawed picture of the situation we have in the UK, which we can support guilt free.
Although Tesco declined the Rose Veal meatballs I pitched to them - they didn't think they were a viable mass market product - they have committed to stocking cuts of rosé veal in their stores within 8 months, which would be a huge and exciting step.
However, there is a lot that needs to be done to re-educate the public, spread this important message and encourage people to buy rosé veal.
The following links are to places where you can already buy rosé veal. Please note, they are external to Channel 4 and open in new windows.
If you'd like to know which Tesco stores stock Jimmy's products, please call Tesco customer services on 0800 505 555 (Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm).