I had dinner last night with a dairy farmer at a breathtaking vineyard in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. I’m here primarily to learn about our new grass-fed beef, but there’s always unexpected lessons. In this case, I gained unexpected clarity from facts I already knew. #LessonsFromNewZealand
Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry.
In order to produce milk continuously, the dairy cow needs to be impregnated annually. Most dairy cows are Holsteins or Jersey cows because those breeds produce the highest volumes of milk. But those breeds are not suitable for beef production. The result is that every dairy cow on the planet births one calf per year.
So the farmer has a choice of killing the calves upon birth or raising them for veal. Depending on economic factors exclusively, the dairy farmer makes that choice. Since the main objection to veal over the past few decades has been on grounds of animal rights and humanity, the question is: What is more humane? When it comes to “milk-fed” veal, that is a good question and I don’t know the answer. I do think that rose veal production in general is more humane than immediate slaughter. And, it is certainly a better use of agricultural and environmental resources given all the inputs required to gestate that calf.
The bottom line is that there literally would be no veal if it were not for the dairy industry. I am marinating in irony as I think about this.
I have this picture in my head of conscious consumers discussing the animal welfare implications of veal, while sitting down for a spread of cheese and crackers. I am imagining the caricature of an animal rights advocate: an urban liberal pontificating over an elegant spread of something hard, something soft and something blue.
I can’t help but think that all of the animal rights advocates have missed the point. The symptom is veal husbandry. But the real cause of the problem is our demand for milk and milk products.
I am also imagining pro-lifers voraciously consuming milk and not even knowing that a consequence of their milk production is that some of gods creations are being unceremoniously slaughtered and buried after birth. I presume that they value human life over animal life, but how is it not a contradiction to argue against aborting a human fetus while supporting an industry that routinely terminates live creatures.
There’s just too much irony.
My wife is a naturopath and she often reminds me that we are literally the only species on the planet that not only consumes milk as adults, but that drinks the milk of another species.
How is it that our species has come to drink so much milk? My guess is that the milk industry’s success is one of marketing’s great triumphs. But, maybe it also sells itself. After all, who can’t resist a great cheese plate or indulgent dairylicious dessert.
Post Written by Justin Marx