The New York Times ran a feature article last Sunday entitled “Veal Farmers Adopt More Humane Methods.” It posits the concept of humane veal.
A Kentucky farmer lets his veal calves roam in the pastures and nurse alongside his mother, according to the article. “The only way you could get more natural is if you take the fences out,” the rancher told the Times.
That does sound like the polar opposite from conventionally raised veal calves who are taken from their mothers at birth, forced to live in small, dark enclosures and fed unhealthy diets before they’re slaughtered. There are a lot of humans who don’t even live as well as some of these veal calves in the article seem to have it.
But here’s the question: Do we really need veal?
Let’s forget for a second all of the stigma about conventional veal that has made it unwelcome even to some meat-eaters. Whole Foods now sells the Strauss brand veal that’s being raised in the lush-sounding conditions. But don’t we have enough meat already?
There are, right now, some 10 billion animals waiting to be turned into food products here in the U.S.–not counting all the fish and seafood. And cows, recent research shows, contribute the largest carbon footprint out of all the animals in our food chain.
Yes, there’s a stark difference between a cow–or veal calf–raised on lush, rolling green hills from one who’s never seen the light of day. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Or even a relatively good one.
There’s the other ick factor to veal, too: that it’s the meat from an adorable, innocent baby cow, which is about as close to eating a puppy as you can get without going full Fido for your lunch.
New veal-raising practices may be better than they were in the past, but humane veal as concept is a lot like eating “healthy” junk food. Don’t kid yourself.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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