Most people think that veal simply means the meat of a baby cow. While this is technically true, it is by no means indicative of the whole picture. I must stress that I personally love meat, but researching the history of veal actually made me a little sick.
Veal is actually a by-product of the dairy industry. When a milk-producing cow has a male offspring, it is used to make veal. The female offspring is left alone to become the next generation of dairy cows, but the males are not quite so lucky. Within moments of birth, the male calf is separated from its mother so she can return to producing milk. Some are slaughtered immediately for a precious type of veal called “bob veal” – they rarely see the light of day for more than a few hours. Most are housed inside a small crate and fed an amenia-inducing diet where lack of movement and oxygen causes the muscles to weaken – meaning the meat is extremely soft and juicy compared to farmed beef cattle. This is where the whole controversy comes into it, with animal rights activists claiming that the conditions they were raised in are cruel.
While most people are happy to eat beef that they know has come from free-range cattle, fed properly and allowed to live to maturity before being slaughtered for our consumption, I would bet that knowing the conditions that lead to veal will likely make you refuse to eat it. The fact is that many butchers refuse to even stock veal today, and those who do have a hard time when customers find out.