Veer towards British veal!

Veer towards British veal! Hear a passionate argument from our creative director Michelle


Michelle Allmark-West
Concept Director

It’s a bit of a funny one for me to write this one, (not having eaten red meat or chicken for 22 years!) but basically I am encouraging the use of veal in restaurants and hotels. There is a slight catch though, I am only encouraging the use of British veal.

If you can, please spare a few minutes to read my argument for buying British and think about making the change – if marketed correctly it could be rewarding for you too!

Around half a million dairy calves are born in the UK every year, these are an unwanted by-product and are either shot at birth or are transported from the UK to veal farms on the continent on journeys lasting 50 hours or more. Once they arrive the calves are intensively reared on bare slatted floors without bedding; these conditions are illegal here in the UK. Most of these calves are fed on milk-based diet low in iron to keep their flesh pale and this is called ‘white veal’ which has numerous health issues for the animals as many calves are anaemic and are constantly week and lethargic.

UK standard laws require that all veal calves are provided with bedding and double the amount of fibrous food compared with the EU requirements. An even better option is the Soil Association organic veal, here calves are reared in small groups in straw-bedded barns and even have access to the outdoors, something intensively reared calves never get – the only bit of outdoors they see is through the sides of the massive transport lorries. British organic veal calves are also fed on a diet without restriction of iron intake and solid food.

The highest welfare standard is when calves are reared with their mothers in suckler herds. Here they will never be transported on horrific long journeys or separated from their mothers. The health and psychological benefits to the animal in this system are huge.

Veal is a popular choice of meat, 28% of the British population eats it (YouGov 2009) and unfortunately most of this comes from the intensive farms in the EU. France is the biggest producer (1.6million calves) followed by Netherlands (over 1.3 million calves) and Italy (over 870,000 calves). What we need is to get Britain to eat British! Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys and Waitrose are leading the supermarkets and have listened to market concerns, these supermarkets are only selling high welfare British veal. It is also promoted by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay.

Why not take the plunge and be ahead of the game and serve British veal and shout about it? It could differentiate your restaurant from your competitors.

Worried about the expense? British veal producers say that feeding calves a natural diet rather than the milk replacer used on the continent is cheaper so why not ask your current supplier to have a look into sourcing British veal for you? I would be happy to help if you need help sourcing.

Compassion In World Farming are currently running a big campaign to raise awareness about British veal and are also providing window stickers so that restaurants can show their support and you can also feature on their website if you choose to switch. By selling British veal you are saying a great deal about the quality of your food and therefore your brand. British veal is seen as a premium product so please consider serving it and shout about it!

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