What people might not know is that in order for dairy cows to produce milk, they need to give birth every year. This is why the veal industry has ties with the dairy farming industry. Since only female calves can be used for milk production, male calves are used for veal production. Milk-based veal as produced today has its origins in Europe. In the 1950s, European dairy production greatly increased, and large scale butter and cheese production began. This left dairy farmers with three by-products that they could not valorize: young male calves, whey from cheese production and skimmed milk from butter production. It was soon discovered that feeding the male calves whey and skimmed milk was an ideal way to produce light-colored, tender veal. Initially, these dairy products were sold to local farmers, who began raising calves this way. Later, this type of production became more concentrated in specific areas of Europe. Because veal is light-colored, tender and easy to digest, it has taken its place as a key ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Many popular Italian and French dishes are made with veal, such as osso buco, saltimbocca, blanquette de veau and ris de veau. Indeed, they’ve become part of Europe’s cultural heritage and culinary traditions. To protect the milk-fed veal tradition, the European Union even introduced legislation that harmonizes its definition in order to restrict the use of the term “veal”.
However, it is not yet a staple in everyone’s kitchen. While less common than beef, pork or chicken, European veal is surprisingly easy to cook and makes an impression every time. It is often featured center-of-the-plate in traditional dishes such as osso buco and saltimbocca, but it can also be used to enhance other types of dishes, such as salads or even soups. Veal is widely appreciated for its health benefits. Its tenderness makes it an easily digestible meat, and it’s also low in cholesterol and rich in vitamins and minerals. In fact, veal has less fat and fewer calories than beef, pork and chicken but remains high in protein, which makes it the healthiest red meat option out there! It’s a great alternative for consumers looking to reduce their caloric and cholesterol intake while still getting their recommended daily vitamins and minerals.