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Milk-Fed vs. Naturally Raised Veal

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2006

Is there any difference between milk-fed and naturally raised veal?

Veal calves traditionally have been fed a strict milk or formula diet, and their movement has been limited. As a result, milk-fed veal is white in color. (In general, the more muscle tissue is used, the darker it becomes.) In recent years, naturally raised veal calves, fed milk as well as grain and not given any antibiotics or hormones, have gotten people's attention. These animals are allowed more exercise, and their meat is pink.

Ethical and appearance concerns aside, we wondered if our tasters could tell the difference between milk-fed and naturally raised veal. In terms of flavor, our panel concluded that the two styles were indistinguishable. Texture was another matter. Tasters felt that the milk-fed veal was more tender, finding naturally raised veal a bit chewy. When we sprinkled the cutlets with meat tenderizer, however, the difference disappeared.