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Jul 26, 2012 12:07 PM

Whole Foods "veal"

I recently purchase 4 packages of veal scallops at my local Whole Foods store. It didn't look like veal as it was a dark red, beef color. It looked more like very lean skirt steak. My recipe was for Veal Marsala. I pounded this meat and sauteed it and made a traditional Marsala. When the meat was cooked it was dark brown (like skirt steak) not the light golden color of veal. What's worse the meat was tough as shoe leather. When I went back and complained to Whole Foods they told me the veal is this way because of the humane way they treat and feed the animals before they're slaughtered. I said anyone ordering veal in a restaurant and got this would send it back. The butcher agreed! It seems like they should put a disclaimer on the package, as the only thing resembling veal about this product was the high price.

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  1. I presume you are used to seeing veal as a very pale meat?

    Not the case where I am in the world, where it is much darker. That's because the animals are not slaughtered until they are about 35 weeks old and have been rasied to much higher welfare standards than those producing "white" veal. I presume, from what you say, that your supplier is also buying in an older, humanely raised product.

    As you probably know, the "white" veal generally comes from male calves born in dairy herds and are killed within a few hours or days of birth. That is not a product I want to eat in preference to "white" veal..

    4 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Just out of curiosity Harters is it strictly a matter of the young age at which they are slaughtered which puts you off? If an animal is to be slaughtered for human consumption does doing it sooner rather than later make it worse?

      1. re: kmcarr

        Yes and no.

        It is mainly the whole animal welfare thing - where I am, the farms raising the older calves are also working to higher welfare standards, often keeping the calves with their mothers in the herd. So, to my mind, the two elements go together.

        Whilst I'm perfectly happy to buy and eat rose veal at home, veal isnt something I would generally eat in a restaurant unless there was some indication about provenance.

        (PS: I've amended the final sentence of my earlier post to give better clarity.

      2. re: Harters

        Veal where you're at is slaughtered within hours from birth? Are they the bob calves?

        1. re: VincenzoM

          I'm sorry but I don't know the expression "bob calves". The slaughtering is of male claves born in dairy herds.

      3. "When I went back and complained to Whole Foods they told me the veal is this way because of the humane way they treat and feed the animals before they're slaughtered"


        Veal is pale in color because the animals are drinking milk. Once their feed changes - to grains/grass - the color of the meat changes from pale pink to a deeper red. It has nothing to do with humane treatment. It sounds like you bought "baby beef" which I find to be a marketing term indicating neither true veal nor deeply-flavored beef. You've got the "El Camino" of the meat world (Chevrolet produced a car/truck combination in the 1960s & 70s. My recollection is that it tried to be all things to all people and did not accomplish either role well.)

        6 Replies
        1. re: Sherri

          Good analogy with the El Camino; I think they are very cool and will be classics in a few years. A new version is being introduced in Europe, I hear. I hardly see veal anymore, restaurants or markets. So many Italian restaurants used to have a whole menu section just for vitello.

          1. re: Veggo

            I guess our "new European version" is the rose veal I mentioned upthread. It's been around a year or so in the UK. Here's a recent newspaper article:

            1. re: Harters

              A farm that I go to has Rose Veal when they slaughter a calf. However, I do not know if that term, "Rose" is being regulated by the USDA (and, at the moment, do not have the time to do the proper research).

              1. re: DougRisk

                In the UK, the "rose" is intended to indicate its pink colour. I assume no-one ever told the originators that the French word has an "acute" accent over the "e" and isnt pronounced "rose".

                (I would have typed the accent but have no idea how to do it)

                1. re: Harters

                  I can't speak for the UK, but, as far as I can remember, here in America we have referred to Rosé Wine as "RO-Zay" (that's my attempt at phonetic spelling).

                  The farmer who was selling the Veal actually addressed this subject and said that he wasn't sure if he should pronounce it the one way or the other.

                  1. re: DougRisk

                    Rose wine is indeed pronounced ro-zay in the UK, as the French.

                    I'd always assumed that this is what was intended with the veal but the advertising never has the acute angle on the "e". Perhaps, like me, they havnt worked out how to do it - or perhaps they intend it to be pronounced rose (as the flower).

        2. Here is an article that explains the Humane farming methods, and how it affects the color, texture and taste.

          1. I knew there was bob veal, milk fed veal, and then the type that's a little older, and getting closer to beef. Now I see there are even more types. Anyway I don't think Whole Foods was being dishonest, if you want good baby veal you should go to an Italian butcher or do without (IMHO).


            7 Replies
            1. re: coll

              Thank you all for your commentary veal. Snobman - I am sorry to hear that you weren't pleased with your veal purchase from Whole Foods. My name is Lori Dunn and I work for Strauss Brands, we are the veal supplier to WFM. Please contact me direct at and I will be happy to help you.

              I wanted to share a little info with everyone as to standard veal raising methods (by category) how they affect product color, and the level of humane raising they typically represent.

              1) Bob veal - calves usually harvested within 48 hrs of birth. Lowest quality, very inexpensive, grayish in color.

              2) Special Fed Veal - this is what most people think of as "white" veal. This raising method was developed after WWII when the farms of Denmark were being re-populated with bull Holstein calves. Since there was little to no feed available, farmers fed the powdered milk left behind by American GI's to the calves. When the calves were harvested, they noticed the meat was white in color - this is becuase the powdered milk was Iron deficient - thereby causing the calves to become anemic. White veal became very popular b/c it allowed chef's to showcase their flavorful sauces. Unfortunately, at that time, little thought was given to the dangerous side effects of purposely raising an anemic animal - excessive antibiotic usage and forced confinement raising as just a start.

              Today, Special fed veal is still raised one of two ways in the US - either tethered into a crate, or more humanely raised in group pens. Group pen raised veal is typically a light shade of pink, and not white. This is color difference is one way to determine if the calf was raised with sufficient iron in their diet. Keep in mind - the more natural the color of veal, the healthier the diet, the less antibitoics is required to raise the calf. Strauss brands is the only veal company in America to raise 100% of our calves humanely and tether free. This is required by law in the EU.

              Pasture raised veal is veal from calves born and raised in the pasture. WFM carries this type of veal - produced by Strauss - under the name 'Free Raised'. These calves are always free to roam, are never confined, and are 100% antibiotic and hormone free. This raising method mirrors how veal was raised for centuries, before industrialized farming (think fatted calf). The benefit of raising calves this was is the veal is typically much more tender than special fed, and it's nutritionals rival a bonless, skinnless chicken. Yes, the color is richer - not beef red, but, not veal white either. The natural color of meat at this age is influenced by the iron they absorb thru mothers milk and the little bit of pasture grass they eat. These calves are never fed grains. Calves are harvested at 6 mos old.

              Grain Fed, AKA Rose Veal (EU) is truly baby beef. Calves are approx 800 lbs at harvest and can be up to 10 mos of age. These calves are fed grain to help them grow more economically and it does cause the meat to become more beef-like.

              I hope this helps everyone understand the differences in veal. I greatly appreciate your passion for this culinary staple, and hope that you give Free Raised veal at WFM another shot. You can learn more and even see raising videos at our website


              1. re: loridunn

                Thank You for the Information. Always good to hear from someone in the industry.

                  1. re: loridunn

                    Thanks for highlighting the issues, Lori.

                    As you point out, veal crates are now illegal throughout the European Union, although there are still differences in welfare standards across our many countries. I would guess that rose veal, as we raise here in the UK, is probably the highest level. Certainly, it's the only veal I would buy and the only veal I would eat in the EU. I look forward to seeing your high welfare product on restaurant menus on a future visit to America.



                    1. re: loridunn

                      Lori, that was very informative. Thank you so much.

                      1. re: loridunn

                        Glad to have your informed opinion, Lori. It is my understanding that calf sweetbreads disappear as the calf matures. At what age does this occur? I am referring to thymus sweetbreads as obviously the pancreas remains during the animals life.

                        1. re: loridunn

                          Interesting. Thanks for the information.

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