Though there are no precise age standards for veal, the term is generally used to describe a young calf from 1 to 3 months old. Milk-fed veal comes from calves up to 12 weeks old who have not been weaned from their mother's milk. Their delicately textured flesh is firm and creamy white with a pale grayish-pink tinge. Formula-fed veal can come from calves up to about 4 months old, fed a special diet of milk solids, fats, various nutrients and water. The meat from formula-fed veal is not as rich or delicate as milk-fed veal because of the diet's missing milk fat. The term Bob veal applies to calves younger than 1 month old. Their pale, shell-pink flesh is quite bland and the texture is soft. In all true veal, the animals haven't been allowed to eat grains or grasses, either of which would cause the flesh to darken. Calves between 6 and 12 months old are called baby beef and have flesh that's coarser, stronger-flavored and from pink to light red in color. True veal is usually plentiful in the spring and late winter. At other times of the year, calves over 3 months old are often sold as veal. The USDA grades veal in six different categories; from highest to lowest they are Prime, Choice, Good, Standard, Utility and Cull. The last three grades are rarely sold in retail outlets. When choosing veal, let color be your guide. The flesh should be creamy whitebarely tinged with grayish-pinkand the fat white. Meat that's pink turning red means the so-called "veal" is older than it should be. Veal's texture should be firm, finely grained and smooth. Veal is often cooked by moist-heat methods to compensate for its lack of natural fat. It is easy to overcook and dry out, so careful attention must be paid during preparation. The delicate flavor and fine texture of veal have appealed to diners for centuries. Among the numerous dishes created to highlight this meat are veal cordon bleu, veal marengo, veal orloff, veal oscar, osso bucoparmigiana, veal piccata and veal scaloppine.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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