In A Strange Way This Still Doesn’t Solve The Veal Problem

At first sight this new sperm selection method will solve the veal problem. At second sight it won’t – perhaps, on the third it will again.

The veal problem being that a cow needs to have a calf each year if she is to continue to produce milk. Female calves go on to be milk producers – lovely. Male calves, well, these days, they get shot on Day 1. Because we don’t preferentially eat the meat of dairy cattle, it ending up, at best, the in the frozen gunk and therefore being of low value. Further, growing the male calf costs more than the value of the greater carcass.

Now, if we all agreed to eat veal again – pink veal, not milk fed – then this would not be so, the male calves would at least get 6 months or so of gambolling.

That’s the veal problem. At which point, a solution:

Japanese researchers discovered that sperm bearing the ‘X’ chromosome – which generates a female when it joins with the ‘X’ chromosome of an egg – carry molecules which when activated slow down its movement. When a chemical to trigger those receptors is added to sperm, the male ‘Y’ chromosomes power ahead, separating themselves from the tardy ‘X’s.

In mice sperm, when the fast swimmers were gathered and used in IVF, they produced litters that were 90 per cent male. Similarly, when the slower sperm was used, the litters were 81 per cent female. The team from Hiroshima University also told The Telegraph they had successfully used the technique in cattle and produced sex ratios of 90 per cent, although those experiments have not yet been published.

How excellent, we can now control the sex of the calf. Thus, presumably, fewer male calves for the immediate chop, the veal problem is solved.

Except, obviously enough, it isn’t. Because we still need each cow to have a calf every year. Even if all of these are now 100% female we still have that excess problem. Because we don’t in fact need twice the number of female calves we currently get, do we? And the economics of growing a dairy cow – that we don’t use as a dairy cow – will be the same as the growing of a dairy bull that we don’t use as a bull.

Think on it, a roughly static population of dairy herd. 10 year lifetime – not right but about roughly so – and thus 8 or 9 calves. At least 6 or 7 of those are going to be surplus to breeding and dairy herd requirements, aren’t they, whether male or female?

That is, the male specificity of the veal problem is only a selection method of dealing with the problem, it’s not actually the problem itself. Thus solving the male part of it doesn’t solve the problem itself.

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ZilWerksJonathan Harstonliterate3Quentin VoleQ46 Recent comment authors
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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

My dairy-farming friends all agree that shooting male calves is the worst part of the job.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

My aunt Pearl, a dairy farmer, would never eat veal.

Q46
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Q46

So again, sentimentalist propaganda from self-appointed ‘animal-lovers’, causes more death of animals than if they used reason instead of emotion.

literate3
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literate3

Around these parts most of the male calves are reared for a year or two and then sold as steak, not veal. My local independent butcher does not even sell veal, which implies that his suppliers do not produce it.
That may be because we have a lot of land that is suitable for grazing but not for arable farming so we do not have a veal problem.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Milk breeds (round here Friesian/Holstein or Jersey) aren’t very efficient at turning grass into beef and don’t produce very good steaks (compared to, say, Herefords, they have too little fat). I try to encourage a market for rose veal, but there’s too much publicity from PETA etc. against it – even though it means 6 months of happy calf, rather than 6 hours. And it’s delicious! OTOH a restaurant I used to favour in Madrid had ‘ox’ steaks from comparatively old bulls (4+ years). Its location near the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas was probably not a coincidence. Stunning… Read more »

literate3
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literate3

I am willing to believe you on rose veal. I stopped eating veal in my twenties when the butcher I consulted while re-teaching myself to cook (a younger son of the third generation of the family that owned the business) told me how the Dutch produced white veal keeping the calves in the dark. I only found out, although I suspected, that my current butcher did not sell veal because my wife found an attractive-looking recipe for rose veal.

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

Hold on, I knew that in pre-O-level biology in the late 1970s! Have these people only just discovered the microscope?

ZilWerks
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ZilWerks

I remember my mom talking about a recipe for “city chicken” that used veal, chicken and eggs being so expensive in the cities when she grew up in Chicago in the 30s and 40s.