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The wars of the rose veal

25 June 2012
The wars of the rose veal

Price, quality and availability need to be addressed before British rose veal can find a place on menus, believes purchasing specialist John Pinder

Veal is back on the agenda for debate, after farmer and food campaigner Jimmy Doherty launched his drive to convince UK consumers to eat rose veal, produced from male dairy calves.

No one is going to argue that the practice of shooting newborn male dairy calves is shockingly wasteful. Exporting veal calves was rightly banned on welfare grounds a decade ago, but the RSPCA estimates that around 100,000 male dairy calves were killed soon after birth last year, because the stigma that veal still carries means there is no domestic market for the meat.

Jimmy Doherty's campaign, featured in Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket on Channel 4, focuses on retail, aiming to overcome consumer resistance to British veal from animals reared to RSPCA Freedom Food standards.

On the face of it, there should also be a role for pubs and restaurants. Customer demand for traditional dishes with genuine provenance, has never been higher. Especially in this most patriotic of summers, shouldn't British rose veal be proudly featured on menus?

The reality is that availability is currently very low, and the price being asked by producers is often simply not justified by the quality of the meat.

Operators are currently having to deal with very high costs for beef, up by 12.4% year-on-year according to the latest inflation figures. Steak is already in danger of being priced off the menu in many pubs and restaurants. The last thing our customers want is another high-priced beef product.

Clearly, everyone would like to see a domestic market for British veal, and that can only be achieved by creating consumer demand. All of us involved in food supply wish the new campaign well.

However, even if the publicity generated persuades consumers that welfare concern is no longer an issue with British rose veal, the scarcity of supply would push prices up in the short term.

In the longer term, farmers and suppliers will need to offer a product that is of consistent quality and which pub or restaurant operators can put on their menu at a price that represents value for money for their customers.

John Pinder is MD of Lynx Purchasing

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