Veal is the meat from a young calf, usually about 17 or 18 weeks old. The meat is prized for its pale color and tenderness, and it is normally quite expensive when compared to other types of beef. A veal loin is one of the major cuts made from a veal carcass and comes from the area around the center of the calf’s back. There are six other main cuts, including the shoulder and rib, and all seven can be divided further into various retail cuts such as chops and steaks.
An ideal veal loin is a very pale pink to pinkish-gray color. A veal calf has never eaten grass or hay, and in many cases its diet has been strictly limited to milk or milk replacer; this gives the meat its color. This is especially true of the very young calves, but in some cases older ones may have been fed grain along with milk in order to help them to grow more quickly.
Tenderness is another important feature of a veal loin. The meat is typically quite tender due to the very young age of the calf at the time it is killed. It is also very common to keep veal calves confined to small, individual pens that limit how much each calf can move. This retards the development of muscle tissue, keeping the meat of a veal calf much more tender than that of a calf that is allowed to run and play.
Confinement of veal calves is one of the main criticisms of this industry. Many people feel that it is cruel to keep young animals penned to the point that they cannot move about freely. These calves also rarely, if ever, see the sunshine and are never exposed to open fields of any sort. Proponents of animal rights often raise objections to the veal industry for these and other reasons. Modern veal calves, though, are typically kept in clean pens where they have enough room to move around and lie down comfortably.
A veal loin is generally cut into a combination of chops, steaks, and roasts. The chops are often pan-fried, grilled, or broiled, and the roasts are cooked slowly in the oven until the meat is thoroughly heated. Veal loin should be handled like any other meat to avoid the chance of bacterial contamination. Leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen soon after the meal to prevent the growth of unwanted pathogens.