Veal is the meat from a calf slaughtered up to the age of 12 months. The production of veal is linked to the dairy industry as cows must produce calves in order to produce milk. The resulting females are raised for the dairy industry and males are slaughtered for veal meat. Veal cuts are incredibly tender, they have less fat and marbling than beef and therefore often require slower cooking. Veal can be substituted for beef under USDA labeling requirements for processing, but beef can not be used for veal.
There are essentially three veal types; each is determined by the way calves are raised and fed, and are categorized by the color and texture of the meat.
Special-Fed Veal calves are fed a nutritionally complete milk supplement until they reach 18 to 20 week of age and typically weigh from 400-450 pounds. The meat is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine and velvety texture. Approximately 85% of the consumed in the U.S. is special-fed veal. This is the veal industry's premium product.
Bob Veal calves are fed milk. They usually weigh less than 150 pounds and are approximately three weeks old when marketed. The meat has alight-pink color and soft texture.
Grain-Fed Veal calves are initially fed milk, and then receive a diet of grain, hay and nutrition formulas. The meat tends to be darker in color and has additional marbling and often visible fat. Grain-fed veal calves are usually marketed at 5 to 6 months of age and weigh from 450 to 600 pounds.