Why vegetarians shouldn’t drink milk (and it’s not why you think)

Did anyone see the recent Jimmy vs the Giant Supermarket programme where Jimmy Doherty took on Tesco in a bid to produce a higher welfare meatball?  I’ve been aware of the issues raised in the programme for some time but feel that now is the time for more people to take action as change is much more likely to occur with the backing of a high-profile figurehead (just look at what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall managed to achieve with his ‘fish fight’).

If you didn’t see the programme; Jimmy decided to try to make a high welfare meatball that could replace the basic Tesco meatball at £1.70 for 20.  As all British beef is free range anyway he decided that in his bid to make a more ethical and higher welfare meatball he would tackle the dairy industry.  You may well ask – what has milk got to do with meatballs???

Approximately 100,000 male dairy calves are shot at 24-48 hours old in the UK each year (source: Farmers Weekly).  Jimmy showed this on the programme and it was very difficult to watch as three, one day old calves were shot in the head.  This is a shocking statistic especially because it happens because dairy bull calves are a ‘by-product’ of the dairy industry.  They are surplus to requirements because the farmers only need female cows to raise for milk production and would lose money raising them for beef production.  It is absolutely crazy in a country of ‘animal lovers’ that this goes on without anyone really taking any notice.  We can’t blame the farmers either because they hate this useless waste.  Vegetarians who don’t eat meat because it’s ‘cruel’ yet still drink milk – madness!!

Of course if less people ate dairy this would reduce the amount of ‘waste’ calves each year but if you are following The Real Food Plan you will have eliminated dairy anyway as we remove it from the diet entirely for the first 28 days.  Many people never re-introduce it because it just doesn’t ‘work’ for them.  But is the answer just to give up dairy? No! this is about adding a food to your diet you may never have tried before – veal.

Back in the 80’s veal got bad press – and deservedly so – for the inhumane practices used to raise veal calves.  Practices such as keeping them cooped up indoors, in the dark for the entire duration of their short lives.  They were transported in miniscule veal crates for miles around Europe – most of you will probably remember the pictures and the public outcry.  This method of rearing produced ‘white’ meat which is what veal was known for.

However, if there was a British Rose veal industry things would be a lot different.  I’ve highlighted British because in the UK it is illegal to produce veal in that way (although not illegal for shops to sell EU meat produced in that way).  Over here animal welfare standards are MUCH higher than on the continent.  Instead of being shot at 1-2 days old the dairy bull calves could be raised humanely for meat i.e. veal. But, as Jimmy discovered shops will only stock what the consumer demands.

The reason the term rose is important is because it signifies that the meat is pink i.e. the animal has spent time outdoors and been able to move around freely so its muscles have developed properly.

Waitrose have been stocking British rose veal for a while – Darren and I have enjoyed some delicious meals using it; see below, veal steak with salad and spicy sweet potato wedges.  And, if Tesco starts to stock it I think that will have a massive impact on demand – as long as  people can move on from the stigma surrounding veal.

British rose veal calves are slaughtered at 8 months old, about the same age as lamb.  The UK is full of lamb meat fans and I don’t see how veal is any different as long as it’s raised humanely

When the programme was made Tesco were still stocking veal form the EU so if you are going to try it just make sure you only purchase British rose veal.  The other benefit of this is that we are supporting British farmers which is always a good thing.

We’d love to know what you think of veal and strongly urge you to give it a go.  Share your recipes with us when you do.

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