What is Special-fed veal?
The term “special-fed” veal is a USDA classification used to describe modern day veal calves that are derived from the dairy industry and fed a special formula or milk-replacer. This formula is typically made from whey and whey protein, both of which are by-products of cheese making. It is nutritionally designed to produce creamy white to pale pink meat.
Special-fed veal was developed in Holland and brought to the US shortly after WWII. At that time, the dairy industry in Holland faced the same challenges that existed here in the US – what to do with Holstein bull calves from the dairy industry. Dairy cows must calve every year in order to maintain milk production. Female, or heifer calves, are raised to re-enter the herd as milking cows. Male, or bull calves, provide little to no value to dairy farmers, making them a true by-product of the dairy industry. The Holland-based special fed veal industry evolved by utilizing the two primary by-products of the dairy industry - bull calves, and whey. Since the US dairy herd is predominantly Holstein based, the black and white Holstein bull calf soon became synonymous with special-fed veal.
Holland veal farmers were the first to develop a whey-based, special milk-replacer formula for bull calves. This formula provided an economical diet for the calves, allowing the farmers to affordably raise them to market weight. The whey based milk formula was intentionally iron deficient, which leads to anemia and, thus, causes the meat to be light in color.