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Are Italian "veal" sandwiches actually beef?

duckdown Aug 29, 2013 10:08 PM

Bizarre thread title, I know.. but hear me out.. Also this is Ontario specific, as I cannot be sure this is standard practice universally across the board and across the world..

A poster here on CH who used to work for one of our favorite meat wholesalers raised an interesting point during a conversation in saying that one of the owners of a very popular East end sandwich shop chain was actually in the store constantly buying loads of eye-of-round in bulk for their veal sandwiches. That in fact, the veal sandwich, was just beef "prepared in the way of veal", but not actually veal at all

This is the first time I have heard of something like this, and now it's piqued my curiosity.

Is this just a one-off kind of thing done by one owner and one sandwich shop?

Is it possible these popular Italian sandwich shops are selling beef labelled as veal? (Technically I suppose it's not a lie, since veal sort of = beef)

Has anybody heard of such a thing before?

I know that if I walked into California Sandwiches or San Francesco or any of the popular places and asked them "If their veal sandwiches were real veal" they would all look at me bizarrely and claim of course it is. But is it possible the employee would be uneducated about such a thing, and it may actually be true?

Just curious to hear everyones 2 cents on this, as the person who told me himself wasn't sure if it was standard practice. I'm sure he will definitely post in here as well, but I figured I might as well make the post on my own because I'd like to know.

Any people in the know care to weigh in on this?

I look forward to hearing the consensus! Cheers

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  1. f
    fourunder RE: duckdown Aug 29, 2013 10:27 PM

    Why don't you purchase a sandwich and take it to the local health department, or proper authority....and let them determine the actual protein unbiasedly.

    Deceptive practices exist, but it's not the standard practice. Here in the States...particularly in the Northeast ...shady pizzeria and restaurant owners have long used pork products to pass off as veal. Again, It's not the standard practice...only the standard practices of those who don't care and are ethically challenged.

    5 Replies
    1. re: fourunder
      pourboi RE: fourunder Aug 30, 2013 10:17 AM

      But there would be no difference between Veal & Beef biologically because they are both cows (one just a baby)... they health department probably cannot tell the difference..

      1. re: pourboi
        fourunder RE: pourboi Aug 30, 2013 11:01 AM

        If upon inspection of the sandwich raises suspicion or concern, the Health Department would have the authority to do a physical inspection and demand receipts to prove they are in fact, purchasing veal for their menu.

        1. re: fourunder
          pourboi RE: fourunder Aug 30, 2013 11:07 AM

          true... I did not think of that...

          1. re: fourunder
            bytepusher RE: fourunder Aug 30, 2013 01:52 PM

            The health department likely doesn't have any authority here as it's not a health or safety issue. The CFIA on the other hand which regulates labeling and product description would probably be the right "authorities"

            1. re: bytepusher
              fourunder RE: bytepusher Aug 30, 2013 02:58 PM

              As I indicated in my original comments...the health department or proper authorities

              I don't know how things are in Canada,...but in the US...The local health or county health departments are responsible and have full jurisdiction. They follow the guidelines set up on a state or federal level... it has nothing to do with labels and product descriptions, but rather food served, which they have complete control. They pretty much can command any establishment to dance on their heads if they wish and the establishment must comply.....sure they can fight any charges, but you will never win.

              I have no idea who the CFIA is, but if they are the equivalent to the USDA...they would not be thr proper authorities here.

      2. Kagemusha RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 03:40 AM

        Many things keep me awake at night. This isn't one of them.

        Are "cheese steak" sandwiches really made from steak?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha
          duckdown RE: Kagemusha Aug 30, 2013 11:30 AM

          It doesn't keep me awake at night.. But it's a pretty blatant lie and something I'm sure most people (including myself) were unaware of

          1. re: duckdown
            Kagemusha RE: duckdown Sep 2, 2013 12:29 PM

            Caveat emptor, as usual. Lots of different fish are passed off as "red snapper." Signage slip-ups on produce origins(imports sold as "product of Ontario"). "Parmesan" cheese sold packaged or grated with no way of IDing it. It's a tough world.

          2. re: Kagemusha
            magic RE: Kagemusha Sep 2, 2013 12:21 PM

            Umm, yeah.

          3. coll RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 04:19 AM

            Well I'm in NY, but I know many delis and pizzerias that use eye round or top round, or pork loin, in place of veal. I sold the meat to them, so that's how I know. They'd buy whatever was the cheapest that day. When it's breaded and fried, or parmigiana style, it's hard to tell. Actually it can be more tender than a tough piece of veal, not that I'm defending them in any way.

            1. meathead2 RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 04:29 AM

              Veal is defined as a young calf, up to and including the age of 365 days. Over 80+ % of the veal produced in Canada is grown in Quebec. With the added expense of this item, and the relative lack of raw materials, it is indeed possible that there are mis- labeling practices going on BUT this is a very slippery slope. The eye of round and other off cuts of the carcass can be in good supply in Ontario, and with the right techniques can be made to be very palatable. To accuse anyone of false ingredients is, in my mind, a serious thing, and exact proof is the only option to ensure that if there are any lies being told then they are being properly and ethically dealt with. Turkey has also been used in place of veal, as has the other meats mentioned in this thread. Buyer beware is my unfortunate advice, and when in doubt, speak with your wallet and take your business to a business that you know is selling you what they say it is.

              2 Replies
              1. re: meathead2
                bytepusher RE: meathead2 Aug 30, 2013 06:30 AM

                Actually the legal definition on veal in Canada is based on carcass weight and "maturity characteristics" not the age of the animal at slaughter.

                1. re: bytepusher
                  meathead2 RE: bytepusher Aug 30, 2013 06:57 AM

                  Thank you for the clarification on the legal, my point exactly on the "slippery slope" part. With the maturity characteristics around the 365(ish) day mark and the weight of the animal, veal is not beef, that is for sure. and by beef, I mean the common weight and age of the animals that are sold as beef are older and heavier that "veal" Phewww! This can get complicated.

              2. l
                LexiFirefly RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 05:04 AM

                I think many do. I know I had a friend that was a meat supplier to some mid level restaurants that sell veal sandwiches that are eye of round. The reasoning behind it was you could get better beef for the same price that would create a better product. Not sure why they wouldn't advertise it though if that is the case. As long as it's not pork I got no issue.

                1. justxpete RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 05:55 AM

                  Seems like its a common practice, from the replies. Can't say I'm overly surprised.

                  1. i
                    iamafoodie RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 07:55 AM

                    I accept that most veal sandwiches aren't really made with veal. I don't think there's enough real veal to meet the demand and sandwiches would have to be substantially more expensive.

                    I particularly object when restaurants try to pass off beef liver as calf's liver. There's too great a taste difference, just as there is between the beef and pork cutlets used for sandwiches or schnitzel to be an acceptable substitution.

                    1. m
                      Michael N RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 08:26 AM

                      If a tree falls in a forest and nobody's listening, does it make a sound?

                      If a restaurant serves beef instead of veal and there's no discernable difference in flavour, does it matter? I can see both sides of the argument. Beef and veal are pretty much the same thing, and there are no religious/dietary concerns in the substitution. But then again, how is this all that different from a fishmonger telling you you're getting one type of fish when you're actually getting another, which I think we can all agree is a much more cut-and-dried Bad Thing.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Michael N
                        LexiFirefly RE: Michael N Aug 30, 2013 11:36 AM

                        As someone who recently went into anaphylactic shock, after eating "orange roughie" I can agree about the fish. The veal or beef issue is not going to have that type of consequence. If anything aren't people more squeamish about veal compared to beef? I doubt there are many who would care that they aren't eating baby cow! (Which I love btw.)

                      2. y
                        ylsf RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 10:29 AM

                        I could see NOW or GridTO or Toronto Star doing an article on this. You should contact them. I would be curious to see the answer.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ylsf
                          duckdown RE: ylsf Aug 30, 2013 11:31 AM

                          I wouldn't know how to go about it, but I do agree it would be a good topic to write about

                          1. re: duckdown
                            kwass RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 11:44 AM

                            You could contact the star newsroom either by phone or by email:



                            You could also contact Amy Pataki. Her email address is apataki@thestar.ca

                        2. k
                          kwfoodiewannabe RE: duckdown Aug 30, 2013 02:40 PM

                          My two cents:

                          I have been in the shop when a whole leg was brought in to be cut into scallopini at Califonia Sandwhiches on Chesswood Rd. I am not a butcher (and don't claim to be) but based on the size it appeared to be quite small (veal?)

                          1. m
                            magic RE: duckdown Sep 2, 2013 12:23 PM

                            Even if it is made of beef, I wouldn't care. That they taste good, is all that matters to me really. Just call it something different and move on.

                            1. b
                              bytepusher RE: duckdown Sep 2, 2013 04:05 PM

                              Frankly I'm much more troubled by them being labelled as Italian than a technical quibble over the slaughter weight of the carcasses used to supply the restaurant.

                              They are about as Italian as a deep dish pizza, meaning yes they have some ancient and tiny inspiration in Italian cuisine but you'll never find these sandwiches in Italy.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: bytepusher
                                prima RE: bytepusher Sep 2, 2013 06:55 PM

                                I know quite a few Italian Canadians , raised in the GTA, who were sent to school with breaded veal cutlet sandwiches on crusty rolls, made here in the GTA by their born-in-Italy mothers (some of whom still retain their Italian citizenship as landed immigrants, 50 years later, fwiw).

                                I think I could find a breaded veal cutlet sandwich in Italy. Next time I'm there, I'll be sure to look.

                                1. re: prima
                                  bytepusher RE: prima Sep 2, 2013 08:03 PM

                                  In my experience (granted I've never been south of Naopli) Panino con Cotolette is a thing in Italy but not with the Tomato sauce, it's usually served with fresh sliced zucchini, cucumber or tomato and lettuce

                                  The thing we get here with the cutlet with or without melted cheese, tomato sauce and a crusty roll seems to be a Canadese adaptation as far as I can tell.

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