Veal can’t shake its cruel image as demand dwindles

By Freddie Dawson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cattle Meat

Veal can’t shake its cruel image as demand dwindles
Veal sales have flat-lined since the 1980s, despite industry attempts to reverse its ‘unethical’ image, according to industry experts.

Stuart Ferreti, owner of The London Fine Meat Company, told “Veal used to be very popular particularly in modern Italian restaurants in the seventies and eighties​.”

But worries about the ethics of veal production are not solely responsible for its decline. Although welfare-friendly rosé veal is available, many clients want only the milk-fed version, he said.

The last Data Monitor report to deal with veal, Consumer Usage of Red Meat,​ published in October 2010, noted: “Veal lags behind even offal in terms of both the frequency and volume of consumption. The image of veal as unethical, harking back some 20 years, still lingers​.”

Catch-22 problem

Veal sales have fallen victim to a Catch-22 problem as low-uptake limits availability, which in turn limits consumer exposure leading to low uptake among the public, it said.

A spokesman for the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) confirmed: “Veal consumption figures are so small we do not usually separate them from beef​.”

Richard Cullen, the organisation’s retail and consumer insight manager, said

the veal sector would need “significant investment” to regain even its former popularity.

New trends in food consumption are often born in restaurants and then grow after being adopted in the domestic kitchen. But veal has been served in restaurants for years without catching on in the nation’s kitchens, said Cullen.

It was never really a big market and it’s never got back and grabbed attention the way it has on the continent. Consumers remain happy to buy wiener schnitzel or veal slices in a restaurant but not at home.”

But Mintel’s report offered some hope for veal sales. It was the only meat to enjoy higher penetration amongst under-35s compared with older groups. This may be due to younger people being less aware of the bad publicity the meat faced in the 1980s, according to the report.

Also exports of fresh/frozen beef and veal from the UK have soared by 31%, according to EBLEX figures published last month.

The volume of UK exports of fresh/frozen beef and veal leapt from 83,400t in 2009 to 109,300t last year. The value to the industry climbed 28.4%, from £257.7M two years ago to £330.9M in 2010.

At home, recent attempts to improve veal’s poor image included the introduction of ‘rosé’ veal, raised to more humane standards. That was championed by celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Good Veal Campaign.

Longer life

Veal welfare standards in the UK have risen, with calves allowed more space, a mixed diet and a longer life before slaughter, said Phil Brooke, welfare development manager at Compassion in World Farming.

But, more recently, interest in the campaign seems to have waned.

Most veal produced on the continent is still reared to standards that would be illegal in the UK. Because continental demand still exceeds production, countries such as the Netherlands must import calves from the UK and from as far a field as Ireland and Poland, said Brooke.

There remains a case against eating imported-veal on ethical grounds. But UK consumers who choose veal may be saving a dairy bull calf from being shot​ [or exported to be raised in poor welfare conditions],” said Brooke.

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1 comment


Posted by dennis hoare,

Make sure it is 'English Rosé Veal'
with no cruelty involved.

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