Cow and calf

After earning praise from animal rights advocates in the U.S. for a commitment earlier this year to begin buying cage-free eggs, McDonald’s has turned heads in the other direction with the news of its newest sandwich: a veal burger.

Offered currently only in Switzerland, a statement from Thomas Truttmann, Director of Marketing & Communications at McDonald’s Switzerland, said that the first fast-food 100 percent ground calf veal burger came about because, “We are inspired by what the Swiss people like to eat.” The veal burger will have three names for the varying languages spoken throughout the country: McZurich (French), McZurl (German) and McZurigo (Italian).

Veal confinement crates became illegal in the European Union in 2007, but Switzerland continues to use the practice despite the idyllic looking small Swiss farms that dominate the country. Confinement crates can be home to veal calves for as long as six months. The narrow, wooden stalls can be so tight that the calves cannot even turn around. The calves will often be tethered around the neck as well to further restrict movement because movement builds muscle, and muscle changes the flavor and texture of the meat.

Considered to be one of the cruelest practices in food production, veal requires that newly born calves be immediately taken away from their mothers–typically male calves born to the constantly impregnated female dairy cows. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), “[C]alves born on dairy farms are taken from their mothers on the same day that they are born and fed milk replacers, including cattle blood, so that humans can have the milk instead.” Most veal calves are forced into a state of anemia (iron depletion), which creates the pale, tender meat. However, Switzerland has laws in place requiring veal calves receive iron supplements.

No word whether McDonald’s has plans to expand its veal burger selection into other countries including the U.S.

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Image: AndyRobertsPhotos