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Rail Paul

Humanely raised veal

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It's probably annoying to the two of you that I keep busting in on your debate, but this just came out today:

Oh boy, it's such a pleasure to have someone who has real knowledge of the subject, and can even provide source material, unlike a couple of amateurs like Sam and myself :biggrin:

Sam, I found your last post surprizingly defenisive, as (I surmise) did Badthings. Your main ripostes to my concerns about the negatives of GM is to say they're no worse than the negatives we already have. While I have said repeatedly that I have reached no conclusion about GM, but I insist on proper research and publication of evidence, you only seem to say that GM has the potential to do wondrous things so let's get going.

My sole objection to that approach is very simple. Once we have "got going" we may never be able to stop. That is the scariest characteristic of GM. By the very nature of its design and purpose, it is bound to eliminate its competition, and if my fears are well founded its environemnt, before we find out what has happened. Then it will be too late. Man has never succeeded in turning a wilderness back to fertile land.

Badthings rather nicely chides us for creating a narrow dialogue on this public board :smile: Sam, we must be boring most everyone (apart from the two of us) to hell and back because no-one but our friend Bt is chiming in. So I'll bow gracefully out of the debate, although I promise to read any further reply :wink: Thanks for the interesting discussion.


Edited by macrosan (log)

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Boy, talk about uninformed...  Just how much genetic diversity to you think existed in commercially grown American soybeans before GM was introduced?  Well, I'll tell you a secret: not very much

187 varieties, according to FJ Herman's 1962 USDA Technical Bull. A revision of the genus Glycine and its immediate allies (revised down from the suspected 323 after chromosonal testing).

I'm not a horticulturalist, or anything close, so I can't tell you if that's "not very much" or not. Seems like a lot to me. I could just be uninformed.

First of all, 1962 is hardly 1990 or 1995. I would expect there to be a lot more genetic diversity among commercially grown soybean cultivars in 1962. Furthermore, what varieties of soybeans exist may not necesarily reflect those that are actually planted in the fields. And, of course, one has to wonder how much diversity there was between many of the 1962 cultivars you cite. It could be that many of them are incredibly similar and do not represent meaningful genetic diversity.

Again... I would be willing to bet that the 1990 "planted in the fields" number is less than 20.


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not chiding anyone -- it is interesting, I think, how we got here from sustainable veal. This stuff is important, and we should all be thinking about it. Which is all I do, on a strictly amateur level. I've been reading the AgBioView newsletter, which is a great source of both information and intellectual dishonesty on the topic, if anyone's interested.

Today they had an Economist review of

Ending Hunger in Our Lifetime: Food Security and Globalization

By C. Ford Runge, Benjamin Senauer, Philip G. Pardey and Mark W. Rosegrant

which seems germane to the discussion.

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Has anyone here tasted the humanely raise veal? I've seen pictures of it and it looks much more like beef. Also, does anyone know where you can purchase it? I'd like to try it.

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187 varieties, according to FJ Herman's 1962 USDA Technical Bull.  A revision of the genus Glycine and its immediate allies (revised down from the suspected 323 after chromosonal testing).

First of all, 1962 is hardly 1990 or 1995. I would expect there to be a lot more genetic diversity among commercially grown soybean cultivars in 1962 ...

I find it very hard to dispute that, but then that's not the question you put forth when you called someone "uninformed". What you asked was this:

Boy, talk about uninformed...  Just how much genetic diversity to you think existed in commercially grown American soybeans before GM was introduced?

I read that, felt uninformed, so I went off and looked it up, finding that the truth is that there is 187 chromosonally different (which, as the child of two chemists, you should know is significant variation) varieties of pre-GM soybean. It seemed from your question that you knew the answer (or should have before calling someone "uninformed"). I'm not certain, but I also don't believe that 1990, and certainly not 1995, varieties would qualify as "before GM was introduced" which, again, is what you put forth.

Don't want to get into a pissing contest over this, because I don't actually care enough about the subject of soybean varieties. I was just trying to inject some facts in among the conjecture.

The problem with these sorts of discussions is that once everyone throws their facts, ideas, and opinions into the forum, the discussion increasingly denegrates into carefully couched name calling, misinterpretation, and the like. I give credit to Shaw for walking out on this when he become morally offended, instead of heading down the rathole of forced population control (his perception, it seems, of what macrosan was saying).

As for you, Sam, I found it ironic that you were twisting macorsan's words in almost the exact way that you claimed yours were twisted when you were off insulting midwesterners in that Babbo thread. It is entirely possible to have discourse and share opinions and facts (actual and perceived) without stooping to intellectual name-calling.

As for this thread, I'm getting a lot out of it, feeding thoughts and forcing the mind into directions that were previously unexplored. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. And that's the goodness of this place.

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Has anyone here tasted the humanely raise veal? I've seen pictures of it and it looks much more like beef. Also, does anyone know where you can purchase it? I'd like to try it.

Would someone please answer the question about the damned veal? :sad:


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The problem with these sorts of discussions is that once everyone throws their facts, ideas, and opinions into the forum, the discussion increasingly denegrates into carefully couched name calling, misinterpretation, and the like. I give credit to Shaw for walking out on this when he become morally offended, instead of heading down the rathole of forced population control (his perception, it seems, of what macrosan was saying).

... It is entirely possible to have discourse and share opinions and facts (actual and perceived) without stooping to intellectual name-calling.

As for this thread, I'm getting a lot out of it, feeding thoughts and forcing the mind into directions that were previously unexplored. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. And that's the goodness of this place.

I like your post, McDowell. It saddens me that, as you say, these important and difficult discussions sometimes fall into disrepute. I think it may be that some people just enjoy a fight, maybe there is just a lack of mutual confidence and respect between members of eGullet. It also saddens me when a moderator, who has the responsibility and the authority to moderate the discussion, instead chooses to walk away and leave the thread to degenerate into a rabble-rousing polemic.

What is good is that this didn't happen to this thread, and I think that's because Sam did fulfil the moderator's role. His style is moderate, even when I don't agree with him. He did misinterpret some of what I said, but allowed me to expound and explain, accepted my explanation, and continued to disagree in a constructive and friendly way. That's called intelligent discourse, I believe.

Like you, I'm getting a lot out of this thread. I am learning new facts, I'm learning about other reasonable views. And I'm enjoying the intellectual exercize. :smile:

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187 varieties, according to FJ Herman's 1962 USDA Technical Bull.  A revision of the genus Glycine and its immediate allies (revised down from the suspected 323 after chromosonal testing).

First of all, 1962 is hardly 1990 or 1995. I would expect there to be a lot more genetic diversity among commercially grown soybean cultivars in 1962 ...

I find it very hard to dispute that, but then that's not the question you put forth when you called someone "uninformed". What you asked was this:

Boy, talk about uninformed...  Just how much genetic diversity to you think existed in commercially grown American soybeans before GM was introduced?

mcdowell, what exactly did you think I was asking? How many soybean varieties existed in a seed catalog? How many soybean varieties existed in 1867? Why would any of these numbers be meaningful? If one is going to blame GM soybeans for a reduction in the genetic diversity of commercially grown American soybeans the only thing that would be meaningful is to understand how many soybean varieties existed planted in American soybean fields immediately prior to the widespread planting of GM soybeans.

I assumed, perhaps unrealistically, that any reasonable person would understand that this has to be the case. A technical document describing all the known soybean cultivars in 1962 is in no way reflective of the genetic diversity of soybeans planted in American fields prior to the widespread planting of GM soybeans. This is what my response to your post pointed out. I don't understand why you seem to be getting touchy about it, but it was an absolutely valid response on my part. You provided your data as refuting my earlier statement and I explained why I didn't think it was sufficient to do so.

Let's just think about this a minute: OK, your 1962 report says that there were 187 varieties of soybean in 1962. Does this reflect what is planted in American fields in 1962 or the genetic diversity as planted in the fields? We really don't know, do we? Even assuming that all 187 varieties were actually being grown in 1962, it is quite possible that the planting was something like this: 35% variety 132, 22% variety 14, 17% variety 97, 15% variety 173, 7% variety 2, 4% all the other varieties. Now, does that seem like a great deal of genetic diversity to you?

Let's think about it another minute: Is there any reason to suspect that any or most of the 187 varieties in your 1962 report are completely extinct? We don't really know, but my strong suspicion is that there are at least some seeds around somewhere for most of these varieties. But that's not all... As we know, there are plenty of new soybean strains that have been developed since 1962. So, if the USDA were to do a report enumerating all the known soybean varieties, it seems inevitable that the number for 2003 will be more than 187, not less. Does this equal more genetic diversity today as opposed to 1962? Of course not, you say, just because the soybean varieties exist does not mean that they are planted in American fields. This brings us right back to my point about your data.

Now, it just so happens that I not only have parents who are chemists, but I also have a lot of relatives in the farming business. You can drive through West Texas and similar places and see field after field after field of cotton or feed corn or whatever all at exactly the same level of maturity, all exactly the same height, etc. And, what's more important, the characteristics of the crops you see do not vary much from one farmer's fields to the next. It has been this way as long as I can remember, which doesn't go back to 1962, but certainly goes back to 1975 or so. This does not represent a great deal of genetic diversity. The farmers were all growing special hybrid crops, and they were all choosing to grow the same varieties. Even a cursory glance around the fields circa 1980 is enough to demonstrate that there was very little genetic diversity. The impression formed by such an observation is supported by what I hear from my farmer relatives.

Another thing that has happened since 1962 is an incredible consolidation of farmland into the ownership of a relatively small number of companies. I am sure the data is out there somewhere, but I would guess that the number of farm owner/operators in this country is a lot less than 50% of what it was in 1962. This has also been bad for genetic diversity of crops. If AgriCorp buys up 100 small farms it is a sure bet that they are not planting 100 different varieties of soybean on that consolidated land -- even assuming that the 100 small farmers were all growing different varieties, which is extremely unlikely.

So, what does this mean. It means A) that there is plentiful evidence that leads to the conclusion that there was very little genetic diversity in American crops like soybeans immediately prior to the widespread planting of GM crops; and B) your 1962 data really doesn't prove anything. If you, or anyone else, can provide data showing the number of soybean varieties actually planted in American soil immediately prior to the widespread adoption of GM soybean varieties, including relative percentages in which those soybeans are planted, and if that data demonstrates significant genetic diversity, I will gladly shout from the rooftops that I was mistaken.

I read that, felt uninformed, so I went off and looked it up, finding that the truth is that there is 187 chromosonally different (which, as the child of two chemists, you should know is significant variation) varieties of pre-GM soybean.

I am chromosonaly different from my father, mother and sister... but that doesn't represent meaningful genetic diversity. For example, many parents and siblings are so similar to their children or siblings that they are "perfect" organ donors. This is exactly what I meant when I said it "could be that many of [the 187 varieties] are incredibly similar and do not represent meaningful genetic diversity."

I'm not certain, but I also don't believe that 1990, and certainly not 1995, varieties would qualify as "before GM was introduced" which, again, is what you put forth.

Roundup Ready soybeans were introduced commercially in 1996.

As for you, Sam, I found it ironic that you were twisting macorsan's words in almost the exact way that you claimed yours were twisted when you were off insulting midwesterners in that Babbo thread. It is entirely possible to have discourse and share opinions and facts (actual and perceived) without stooping to intellectual name-calling.

As for you, mcdowell, I find it incredibly ironic that you should say that when you could have read my posts to this thread and seen me say things to Macrosan like:

"Macrosan, apparently I have misconstrued some of your points"

and

"I hope I have not misconstrued or misrepresented your position"

and

"Now... I am only looking at a few sentences that you wrote. Perhaps you meant for it to come out differently, or perhaps you were just pursuing an idea that came to mind and think differently. I'm cool with that. What do you think then?"

and Macrosan must have thought I had totally twisted his words when he said:

"how nice to find someone who can coolly and intelligently discuss an important but fundamentally difficult subject When you come down to it, you and I agree on most of the fundamental facts and principles."

The person who would seem to be doing the twisting here is you, my friend, not me. And, as for the intellectul name-calling that you allege, I don't see any. My remarks about "talk about uninformed" and "one could almost say 'intellectually dishonest'" was meant to be humorous and teasing badthings and Macrosan about their use of that phrase. Badthings, anyway, seemed to get it.

Not that I think I need to explain myself to you in this regard, but just for the record since you have obviously felt the call to comment on my character.


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If you think that is what I was saying, then you missed my point entirely.  My point was that there is no reason to suspect that GM crops are any more dangerous than non-GM crops in this regard.

Of course, but saying that x is no more dangerous than y doesn't make x safe. It's true, it's just not a legitimate argument for GM crops.

Absolutely. I agree completely. I don't think it's a legitimate argument on either side, which is what I was trying to say.

there are plenty of things that could be done with genetic engineering to make GM organisms significantly safer than non-GM organisms in this regard

Absolutely. Maybe someone should start doing them.

Agreed again.

Boy, talk about uninformed...  Just how much genetic diversity to you think existed in commercially grown American soybeans before GM was introduced? 

I was trying to make a little joke. :biggrin: The problem that is unique to GM crops -- not soy! -- is if the transgenic material conveys an adaptive advantage, introgresses into wild relatives, then outcompetes plants without the transgenes. They go away, along with their genes that aren't as valuable at the moment as glyphosate resistance, but might have come in handy later on. That, I think, is a serious concern, particularly with corn among the GM crops now grown.

This is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. And I think there are things that can be done to address it, such as making sure that GM crops are sterile or only survive one generation or are otherwise modified so that they are not capable of exchanging DNA with wild varieties. Again, similar problems have existed for a long time with respect to the hybrid crops that are already grown. To take corn, for example, is there any "wild corn" in America that has not been fundamentally influenced by the genetics of the hybrids planted over the last 30-40 years? I hardly see how this could be the case. I don't think corn has been "natural" for a thousand years. Now, this does not mean to minimize the importance of this phenomenon with respect to GM crops or to say that it isn't something we should worry about -- merely to point out that it is something that has been going on for a long time and is not in any way unique to GM crops (although GM crops do introduce new and important elements for consideraton).

Sorry if I seemed shrill, I've been reading a lot about this, and some of the advocates on either side are intellectualy dishonest.

Sorry if the tone of my response seemed inappropriate. I did not mean to imply anything about the tone of yours or to make anything personal. I had heavy pressure at the day job yesterday and was not able to go over my post and make sure the tone was well modulated. My teasing about your and Macrosan's use of "intellectually dishonest" was only that... because I think it could be interpreted as name-callind and because I think it's a meaningless phrase, as I had mentioned in a previous post.


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It's probably annoying to the two of you that I keep busting in on your debate, but this just came out today:

Oh boy, it's such a pleasure to have someone who has real knowledge of the subject, and can even provide source material, unlike a couple of amateurs like Sam and myself :biggrin:

I completely agree! :cool:

Sam, I found your last post surprizingly defenisive, as (I surmise) did Badthings.

The tone could have been better, as I explain in my posts above to badthings and Officer McDowell of the Polite Tone Police. :wink:(Nota bene: the preceding statement is intended to be humorous).

Your main  ripostes to my concerns about the negatives of GM is to say they're no worse than the negatives we already have. While I have said repeatedly that I have reached no conclusion about GM, but I insist on proper research and publication of evidence, you only seem to say that GM has the potential to do wondrous things so let's get going.

Perhaps I have not made sufficiently clear that I do, indeed, agree with you on most of your points. I think it is a very potent technology that has the potential to do great good and great harm. In this sense, it is similar to other advanced 20th century technologies like nuclear power. I couldn't agree more with your insistence on proper research and publication of evidence. In fact, I think that should be the case with many more things than GM.

I have tended to take the GM side in this debate only because I felt that someone had to present the other side when so many people seem to assert that GM is a horrible thing and that it will lead to the extinction of all "natural" plant and animal life and turn us all into genetic freaks with nine arms and eleven heads... not that there's anything wrong with having nine arms and eleven heads. Just in case any of them read eGullet l would like to be perfectly clear that I welcome our new nine-armed eleven-headed genetic mutant superhero overlords and never said anything bad about them. That said, there are, to be sure, bad things and dangerous things about genetic engineering techoloogy, and it should absolutely be watched closely. But, I do think it is important to point out that we have been blithely sitting by while non-genetic engineering technologies have been doing all the things we are decrying in GM for decades right under our noses. Indeed, we should really say that non-GM modern hybrids are produced by "old-style genetic engineering technologies" since specially developed non-GM hybrids are certainly genetically engineered

Sam, we must be boring most everyone (apart from the two of us) to hell and back because no-one but our friend Bt is chiming in. So I'll bow gracefully out of the debate, although I promise to read any further reply :wink:  Thanks for the interesting discussion.

Oh, now... how could we possibly be boring? :rolleyes: I mean... it's us! :cool:

I think it's been an interesting discussion too. And as you have remarked before, I think the two of us share mostly the same thoughts on genetic engineering but happen to have entered into this discussion representing different sides of our more diverse and nuanced feelings on the subject.


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What is good is that this didn't happen to this thread, and I think that's because Sam did fulfil the moderator's role. His style is moderate, even when I don't agree with him. He did misinterpret some of what I said, but allowed me to expound and explain, accepted my explanation, and continued to disagree in a constructive and friendly way. That's called intelligent discourse, I believe.

Thanks, dude. :biggrin:

That said, I don't think it is reasonable to assume that moderators are wearing -- or should wear -- their moderation hats in every single discussion. If you cut us do we not bleed? OK granted, it's a very moderate bleeding... :rolleyes: But seriously, I'm new to eGullet moderating but would hope that I have the ability to take off my moderator hat and mix with the rabble most of the time and only put the moderator hat back on when required to do my job. These moderator hats are not designed for comfort anyway... although I wonder if FG might have been pulling my leg when he mailed me a crown of thorns and said I had to wear it every time I signed on to eGullet. I'll have to check into that. Hopefully we can recognize when we are in need of moderating ourselves, but thankfully there is a fair amount of moderator redundancy engineered into the system and another moderator can always step in.


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It's probably too late, but I would like to return to the discussion of veal, which is much less complicated. I don't think veal presents the same questions of sustainability as, say, commodity crops, GM or not, so it is primarily an issue of quality vs. animal welfare.

It is interesting that Julia (and others) denigrate the quality of "sustainable veal" because, as I recall, Julia (and others) used to be in the habit of denigrating the quality of american veal in general. So I wonder: is regular american veal now objectively good, or just better than the sustainable? I certainly haven't noticed a change.

The other question is: have some people managed to figure out how to make better sustainable veal? That was certainly the implication of Ed Behr's article, mentioned so long ago.

I think we need a tasting.

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It's probably too late, but I would like to return to the discussion of veal, which is much less complicated.

HOORAY!

I will now be paying attention. I need to learn about veal.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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It's probably too late, but I would like to return to the discussion of veal, which is much less complicated. I don't think veal presents the same questions of sustainability as, say, commodity crops, GM or not, so it is primarily an issue of quality vs. animal welfare.

It is interesting that Julia (and others) denigrate the quality of "sustainable veal" because, as I recall, Julia (and others) used to be in the habit of denigrating the quality of american veal in general. So I wonder: is regular american veal now objectively good, or just better than the sustainable? I certainly haven't noticed a change.

The other question is: have some people managed to figure out how to make better sustainable veal? That was certainly the implication of Ed Behr's article, mentioned so long ago.

I think we need a tasting.

Definitely we need to do a tasting. :biggrin: I am not sure, however, whether "sustainable veal" is quite the right way or saying it. My understanding of sustainable, and I looked it up to make sure I had a correct understanding, is:

2 a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods

I am not sure what it is, exactly, about veal that is not sustainable. Sustainability, of course, does not necessarily exclude unnecessary cruelty.

Now, veal that is humane (marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals) is another story. I would think it depends greatly on one's standards for humane treatment of calfs raised for veal. People do, of course, argue that raising any animal for slaughter and consumption is inhumane. With veal, it would seem that three of the necessary components are a diet that is primarily milk, a minimum of exercise and slaughter before a certain age (yes/no?). One could certainly argue that these three components are inherrently inhumane and that veal is therefore necessarily inhumane. One could also argue that altering these components in some arbitrary way to make them more humane will produce meat that is veal-like, but not veal.

So, the questions I think need to be answered are:

1) What makes veal veal?

2) What is it, exactly, about veal that makes it inhumane?

3) Do what degree do they have to be changed to make them acceptably humane?

4) How do those changes affect the characteristics of the meat?

If one insists, for example, that calfs raised for veal must be allowed to freely exercise and must be fed a non-milk diet, I can see how that might fundamentally change the nature of the meat. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that a limited amount of this might improve the meat. The question is: how much? And what is an acceptable compromise? I also wonder what it is that Europeans do differently that make (once made?) JC prefer their veal over American veal ?


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Is it accurate to characterize meat from calves that have been grass fed as veal? I'd be inclined to call it beef, myself.

Veal, as we know it, is a byproduct of the dairy industry--the unwanted bull calves were slaughtered young and sold before they were weaned. I don't see anything cruel about this.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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Veal, as we know it, is a byproduct of the dairy industry--the unwanted bull calves were slaughtered young and sold before they were weaned. I don't see anything cruel about this.

Yea... that doesn't seem cruel to me either. But obviously it is the case that there aren't enough unwanted bulls in the dairy industry to satisfy the demand for veal. I have never been particularly clear on what exactly goes into making veal, except that one hears stories of calfs growing up in a box, etc., etc. One wonders whether this kind of life is any less humane than the life of the average factory chicken and, if so, why more people aren't up in arms about factory chickens... but of course baby cows have big dewey eyes and are a lot cuter than chickens.


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I'm no veal expert, but isn't the confinement system, where calves are fed milk byproduct or whatever and not allowed to move a muscle, designed to produce something called provimi--ultra-white, ultra-tender and quite expensive?


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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Here's some information presenting a couple of sides to this discussion.

First, the USDA says that Veal is the meat from a calf or young beef animal. Male dairy calves are used in the veal industry. Dairy cows must give birth to continue producing milk, but male dairy calves are of little or no value to the dairy farmer. A small percentage are raised to maturity and used for breeding.

They go on to talk about "Bob Veal" (aged only up to 3 weeks or 150lbs) and "Special-Fed Veal". Anyone eaten 'Bob' veal?

The Veal Farmer's association has a short FAQ where they talk about conditions in which they raise the calves.

... guidelines support the practice of raising calves in individual stalls because it allows farmers to carefully monitor and control the calf's nutritional and health status. Calves have a very strong sucking instinct and contact between calves, combined with the calves' tendency for drinking urine, greatly increases their likelihood of contracting disease ... studies show that calves raised in groups have from two to 14 times the disease rate of individually-penned caves. 

One rebuttal to this can be found in this article responding to a bill in New Jersey calling for humane raising of veal.

At the far end of the spectrum, there's the humane society with their Veal Fact Sheet. That one's almost enough to make you forget you're a carnivore.

It's all interesting reading.

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I used "sustainably" because I believe that is how the producers discussed by Behr market their product. Obviously veal of any kind is much more "sustainable" than, say, cows raised to maturity for beef -- and the important questions are the ones Sam listed.

Labor Day Homework: everyone go re-read their Art of Eating.

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"Maturity" is a very relative term--think most steers are slaughtered at one year or under these days.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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"Maturity" is a very relative term--think most steers are slaughtered at one year or under these days.

Not sure I agree - the average slaughter age of a steer varies between 18-24 months, skewing closer to 24 months.

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I'm wrong--was going by memory. It's over a year but usually well under two years.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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Here's some information presenting a couple of sides to this discussion.

Very interesting reading.

I have to say that I didn't find the Humane Society fact sheet nearly as horrible as I had expected. their main oppositions seem to be:

The mother and calf bond is a strong one. Yet, veal calves are taken from their mothers as early as one or two days after birth. Often they have not had the opportunity to nurse and receive colostrum, the antibody-rich milk that helps protect them from disease. 

The calves are trucked considerable distances to auction barns and sold for slaughter or delivery to veal barns. During this journey, they are subjected to rough handling (even being thrown onto trucks), inclement weather conditions, and exposure to numerous diseases; they often have no opportunity to rest or eat. When they finally arrive at the veal barn, many calves will become ill or are already sick. 

Until they are slaughtered at 16 weeks of age, formula-fed calves are confined in tiny, wooden crates with slatted floors and no bedding, which are too small for the calves to take more than one step forward or backward. The calves are unable to turn around, to groom their hindquarters, or to stretch out on their sides—a position calves commonly choose to relieve heat stress and bloat. As the calves grow, they are unable to adopt their preferred sleeping position or to lie down without cramping their legs. Veal calves are often separated from their neighbors by partitions that prevent social contact. By nature, calves are social animals who spend a great deal of time playing and interacting.

OK... veal calfs are taken away from their mothers at an early age... I have a hard time feeling too terrible about this.

OK... veal calfs are then trucked to other facilities... again, not optimal, but certainly not outrageously bad.

Finally we get to the box part... I gather, even from the Humane Society's description, that they are not as terribly small as I had been lead to believe. The veal guys say:

In addition to supporting the use of individual stalls, the AVMA guidelines also call for well-insulated, well-ventilated barns with supplementary heating systems and levels of indoor lighting — either natural or artificial — maintained so that the calves can be seen easily. Each stall is constructed so that the calves will have adequate room to stand, stretch, step forward, backward, and from side to side, lie in a natural position and groom themselves.  Slotted flooring is provided for comfort and cleanliness. Modern veal stalls allow the animals to have visual and physical interaction with their neighbors. This means that the calves are not socially isolated but are assured of receiving their own feed, individual care and attention of good preventive medical procedures...

Now... that seems fairly close to what the Humane Society people said, but it doesn't sound all that bad. I note the veal guys' use of the modifier "modern veal stalls" which gives them some wiggle room on the visual/physical interaction stuff for "not modern" veal stalls. I also note that the veal guys' materials do not say the calfs can turn around in the stalls.

I rather imagine that the reality lies somewhere in the middle here, but I really am struck by the fact that it doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as I supposed it would be. Again, it doesn't seem substantially worse than what happens to chickens in large-scale operations -- or, frankly, all that much worse than what happens to beef cows. The cynic in me still has to wonder how much of the veal hoopla is due to the big dewey eyes and soft fuzzy coats of baby cows.

One does wonder, however, how different the various types of veal taste compared to each other. It would be very interesting to get chops of formula-fed veal and nonformula-fed veal of comparable quality and do a side-by-side comparison.

I wonder if three easy things couldn't be done to make raising veal a much more humane practice:

1) Increase the size of the stalls slightly so the calfs can turn around.

2) Feed the calfs the milk formula via rubber nipple dispensers rather than buckets.

3) Feed the calfs a limited amount of roughage.


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