Our amazing organic pastured veal is back! We’ll have delicious veal steaks, osso buco, roasts, and more available for individual sale (and a Veal Pasture Pack!) at upcoming markets and our Online Shop. You won’t find better-tasting, more ethical veal anywhere, period.
But wait, isn’t veal bad?
As with most things, the answer is ‘it depends’. Veal simply means beef from younger cattle – usually 4-6 months old. The problem with veal (as we see it) is not the age at which calves are slaughtered, but how they are raised.
Yes, the calves we harvest for veal are young. We humans typically prefer to eat younger animals because they are tender and delicious, and because there is a point, as animals grow older, when the efficiency of their conversion of feed to meat decreases. For reference: at Spray Creek Ranch we slaughter pigs at 6 months, chickens at 3 months, turkeys at 4 months, and finished beef cattle are slaughtered at 18-25 months. These are all young animals, but they are treated with respect, have a chance to fully express and enjoy themselves while contributing to our agroecosystem, and when the time comes they are slaughtered humanely.
What matters is not the length of the life, it’s the quality of life. The veal commonly sold in North America comes from factory farming at its worst. ‘Surplus’ dairy calves are separated from their dam immediately after birth so the cow can be milked. The calves are typically isolated in individual confinement hutches and fed antibiotic-laced soy-based milk replacer until they are large enough for slaughter. No need to dwell on what kind of life this is for a calf.
Because it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our veal comes from healthy beef calves that are raised with the herd and eat nothing but their mothers’ milk and our lush summer pastures. The calves frolic and socialize with their herdmates and learn to forage as they rotate through the paddocks. They are not separated from the mother cow until slaughter, so they never go through the stress of weaning. The meat is not the anemic pale colour you’d find in conventional confinement veal, but a rich pink due to the calves’ exercise and proper diet on pasture. This is why pastured veal is sometimes called ‘rose veal’.
Something you may not have considered: Every calf we sell as veal is one less calf that leaves the farm to be finished in a feedlot. Our goal at Spray Creek Ranch is to keep every calf born on the farm from birth to slaughter or pass them to a farmer we know personally for finishing. We do not yet have the capacity for this, however, and we still send nearly half of our calves through the auction in the fall. These calves are transferred into the commodity beef production system — purchased by grain-based feedlot operations, separated from one another and shipped across the map. As you can imagine, after all the care we put into raising our animals, it is heartbreaking to send them to finish their lives in a conventional feedlot to be converted into meat that we would not feed our family.
Part of our transition from a commodity cow-calf operation to a regenerative organic farm is to identify sustainable, ethical markets for all our production. Through a combination of developing a market for veal, selling calves to other small-scale organic farms for finishing, and grass-finishing our own beef, we hope to eliminate sales through the livestock auction before 2020. Thank you for helping us achieve this goal!
And when we keep these calves on the farm, the result is an incredible cut of delicious veal. Our certified organic pastured veal is a true epicurean delight, an experience unavailable anywhere else. It has the unusual combination of being both incredibly tender and full of beefy flavour. The sweet scent of the meat when you open the pack, the sizzle as you gently sear the outside, and the buttery softness as you cut in, and then that delicate grass-fed flavour… Amazing!