Hard Questions – Honest Answers
Q: What makes special-fed veal meat light in color?
A: Typically, the color of veal meat is determined by the amount of iron that the calf receives from its diet. Since special-fed veal calves receive a milk replacer formula instead of mother’s milk, the formula is designed to be low in iron in order to ensure the lightest meat color possible.
The color of veal has long been a point of concern and controversy. In fact, some retailers in the EU have already banned “white” veal from their shelves due to animal welfare concerns.
In addition to iron-deficient diets to ensure light colored meat, veal farmers must filter iron from their calves’ water and make sure that the calves do not consume natural forages or come into contact with metal objects. This is also the primary reason why calves must still be raised in some type of confinement. It is important to note that, as iron levels decrease and the color of veal meat lightens, the calves become anemic and their natural immune system weakens. This means that calves become sick more easily, which then requires increased medication and antibiotic usage.
As a veal consumer, you can help to improve the raising conditions of all veal calves and the health of your product by asking your butcher for naturally colored veal.