Beef vs Veal: How is Beef Different From Veal?

Although veal is a popular food all around the world, many people are still not sure exactly what veal is or how it is produced.

Veal is a type of meat that is harvested from young calves, typically around 16-18 weeks of age. Veal does not have as high of a muscle content as beef which makes the meat have a softer texture and more delicate flavor.

In the rest of this article, you will learn exactly what veal is, the different types of veal, as well as the differences between veal and beef both in flavor and nutritional value.

What Is Veal?

Veal is a type of beef that is made from slaughtering a very young cow or calf. They are usually raised until approximately 16-18 weeks of age at which point they are butchered. If they are left to grow longer than this then the meat becomes tougher and more like that of an older animal.

Veal is used in many dishes around the world and is prized for its tenderness and light flavor. It is also considered to be a healthier food than beef since it contains more fatty acids and less saturated fat. It is also lower in calories than regular beef.

There are several different types of veal including bob veal, milk fed veal, grain fed veal, and rose veal.

Bob Veal

Bob veal is a veal that is made from a calf that was slaughtered at a very early age. This type of veal is usually made from calves that are butchered before they reach three weeks of age or surpass 150 pounds in weight.

These calves account for only about 15% of the veal market. Their meat is typically used for processed meats such as the filling for hot dogs and processed sandwich meats. 

Milk Fed Veal

Milk fed veal are butchered at the typical age of 16-18 weeks, but their diet is what sets them apart. 

They are typically fed on a diet of just milk and are not allowed access to grain or other solid foods. This, along with some confinement, allows the farmers to keep the calves’ muscle tone low which makes for a more delicate piece of meat. 

These calves are considered the most desirable in the veal market because they have the flavor of a slightly older calf, but still have the soft texture that is prized in the veal market since they do not develop significant muscle.

Since their diet and movement are restricted, milk fed veal is often considered one of the cruelest in the industry and is a target of many animal rights organizations. 

Grain Fed Veal

Grain fed veal is often considered one of the more humane types of veal. This is because grain fed veal calves are allowed to move around more and consume grain which allows them to develop the size and muscle tone that they naturally would.

They are still separated from their mothers at an early age however, they are raised with other calves and are free to move around large pens.

However, this type of veal is less desirable to customers as these calves produce red meat as opposed to the “white meat” that is found in milk fed veal calves. 

Rose Veal

Rose veal is also known as free raised veal. This is considered the most humane way to raise veal calves. With rose veal, the calves are left with their mothers and are free to grow up on pasture with other cattle. They are also the healthiest of the calves because they can consume their mothers’ milk along with grass, hay, and grain. 

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These calves are usually slaughtered at around 24 weeks of age which allows them to grow larger and develop more muscle tone than the calves raised in a more traditional way. 

These calves account for approximately 20% of the veal market. However, this type of veal is not as popular as some of the other types.

This is because these calves are allowed to develop the most muscle which makes the flavor and texture of the veal more similar to that of an adult cow. However, with animal rights organizations having more influence, more veal consumers are choosing to transition to the more humane rose veal.

What Is Beef?

Beef is meat that is harvested from a full grown cow. According to the USDA, a full grown cow is considered one that has reached at least two years of age.

Beef is one of the most popular meats in the United States and is the 3rd most consumed meat in the entire world. Beef alone accounts for approximately 25% of all meat consumption.

As a red meat, beef contains several important nutrients that humans need in order to remain healthy. Some of these nutrients are protein, vitamin B12, and zinc. Red meat also contains a form of iron that is easier for the body to process than plant based iron.

Beef is used in many different recipes from steak dishes to pasta. It is also used in cultures all around the world.

Veal Vs Beef: How Are They Different?

Despite being from the same animal, veal and beef are two very different foods. Since the animals are raised differently and harvested at different ages, the flavor and texture of the meat can be different. There are also some nutritional differences between the two foods.

Color

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between veal and beef is through the color. When you look at a cut of raw beef it should be a bright red color. This color comes from the muscle of the cow that is developed over its lifetime.

In contrast, veal is typically a light pink color. Since veal calves are typically unable to move around or consume a normal diet, they cannot develop the same level of muscle tone that an adult cow can. This makes the meat appear pink since there are not as many muscle fibers.

Taste

Beef is known for having a strong, meaty flavor. This comes from the muscle that develops during the lifetime of the cow. Since veal calves do not develop this muscle, the flavor of the meat is much more delicate.

Texture

The texture of beef is relatively rough and grainy. You must cook it to be able to tear it apart easily and it can sometimes be tough to chew, especially if the animal was on the older side or particularly muscular. Beef also typically has more fat which can affect the texture and make it more difficult to cut and chew.

In contrast, veal has a smooth, delicate texture and it does not require much effort to cut or chew. This is due to the lack of muscle in the calf. Veal also has a smoother texture than regular beef.

To learn more about the flavor of veal and why it tastes different from regular beef, click here.

Vitamins

The vitamin difference between the two meats is also a distinct difference. Beef contains large amounts of vitamin A and vitamin B12 which veal does not contain. This is because since most beef cattle are raised on a pasture, they can acquire these vitamins throughout their lifetime and the vitamins remain in their meat after butchering.

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Although veal does not contain vitamin A and vitamin B12, overall, it is a meat that is much more abundant in vitamins. Veal contains much higher levels of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B9 along with vitamin E. This is because veal calves are fed a milk replacer which has much higher levels of these vitamins than the diet of an adult cow.

These vitamins are then transferred to the meat where people can consume them.

Minerals

Just like with the vitamins, beef and veal also have differences in the amounts and types of minerals that the meats contain.

Beef contains large amounts of zinc, selenium, and iron which come from the added muscle that the animals carry. 

Veal on the other hand contains large amounts of magnesium, copper, and iron which are not found in adult cows. 

Calories

Out of the two meats, regular beef is higher in calories than veal. This is in part because of the higher water content found in veal. Regular beef is also higher in fat which increases the calorie content of the meat.

Macronutrients

Overall, the two types of meat have a similar nutritional profile. However, there are some key differences in the fat content of the meats.

Regular beef is typically higher in saturated fat and does not contain as many healthy fatty acids as veal.

In contrast, veal contains more fatty acids but it also contains more cholestoral. Out of the two meats, despite having more cholesterol, veal is considered healthier due to its abundance of healthy fatty acids and lower caloric content.

Conclusion

Veal is a type of meat that comes from cattle that are slaughtered as young calves. This provides a completely different flavor and texture than what is found in regular beef where the cattle are typically slaughtered at approximately two years of age.

There are several different types of veal including Bob veal, milk fed veal, and rose veal. The types are categorized based on the diet that the calf was fed, the environment it was raised in, and the age at which it was butchered.

There are also nutritional differences between veal and beef, almost all of which come from the fact that beef contains stronger muscle. The diet of the cows also impacts the level of vitamins and minerals that are found in the two different meats. 

FAQs

In this section, you will find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding veal.

Why Is Veal More Expensive Than Beef?

Veal is usually priced higher than beef because veal costs more money to raise. Despite only being raised for a few short months, veal calves require special food and a separate area where they can be raised. Each calf also supplies very little meat at its butchering which means that the same amount of meat will need to be priced higher to account for the costs of raising the animal.

Why Is Veal Cruel?

Although veal has been consumed regularly throughout the history of the world, the industry has more recently fallen under criticism for supposed cruelty against animals.

Veal is considered cruel by some because the calves are not allowed the opportunity to move around, consume a regular diet, and develop normally. They are also frequently heavily medicated since they are not as healthy as regular calves.