sell,” he says. He had a similar issue when serving milk-braised Duroc
pigs, whose meat is typically dark-red, at Chicago’s The Purple Pig. “We’d
braise it for four hours, but people would send it back for being raw. Public
misconception and lack of information rushes people to assume that things
are bad or mishandled.”
Amid Longman’s broader shift away from menu quotas and toward
supporting the local economy, Robbins is open to adding veal, though lack of
demand makes it hard to justify, even from a sustainability angle.
“At the end of the day, I’d menu it if people were asking for it,” he says. “Veal
is out there being raised, slaughtered and sold. We can consume it or let it go to
waste, because the fact is, we’re never going to slow down the dairy industry.”
The dairy connection
Indeed, oft-overlooked in many diners’ struggle with consuming these
young animals is that veal is largely a byproduct of the massive—and
growing—dairy industry. Moreover, whey solids make up the bulk of the
milk-based portion of veal calves’ diets, and are themselves byproducts of the
cheesemaking process underutilized because of a lack of demand.
To keep producing milk, a dairy cow has to produce calves each year—
about half of which are born as bull calves. With little demand for male calves,
many farmers can’t afford to keep them beyond birth. The lives of surviving
bull calves can take three paths, according to Marissa Hake, staff veterinarian
at Midwest Veal, North Manchester, Indiana.
“A few genetically superior calves can be used as breeder bulls,” she says.
“Others can be moved into dairy beef and raised to 1½- 2 years, though Holstein
A few months ago, in a tweet linking to a story in The Guardian about bull
calf euthanization in the British dairy industry, Dan Barber chef/author and
co-owner of Blue Hill, New York, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Westchester County,
similarly placed the onus on diners, noting, “Eating veal is the most sustainable thing
you can do for a dairy farmer.”
It was enough to grab the attention of Neal Brown, chef/owner of Pizzology,
Libertine Liquor Bar and Ukiyo in Indianapolis. “I’m not a proponent of veal necessarily,
but [Barber’s] thoughts on veal kind of made me start thinking this is a flavor we really
haven’t explored for a long time,” he says.
However, given the lack of demand and context for a product that’s been “essentially
eradicated from menus for 20 years,” Brown admits that he likely won’t be the one to
Siegel, in turn, put some of the onus on supermarkets to help break down consumer
misconceptions and lack of context for working with veal, particularly in our era of
one-stop shopping. “It’d be great if grocery stores bought more veal and put it in display
cases, rather than just in prepackaged formats,” he says. “The days of butcher shops are
almost gone. We now depend on grocery stores for that.