Veal - Safety and Cooking

Veal is often associated with international cuisines such as Italian, French, German, Swiss, Hungarian, and Czech. Home cooks enjoy preparing veal for special occasions or for casual dinners such as barbecues. Veal is USDA or state inspected. Here are some facts about veal.

What is Veal?

Veal is the meat from a calf or young beef animal. Male dairy calves are used in the veal industry. Dairy cows must give birth to continue producing milk, but male dairy calves are of little or no value to the dairy farmer. A small percentage are raised to maturity and used for breeding

Calf: A calf is a young bovine of either sex that has not reached puberty (up to about 9 months of age), and has a maximum live weight of 750 pounds.

"Bob" Veal: About fifteen percent of veal calves are marketed up to 3 weeks of age or at a weight of 150 pounds. These are called Bob Calves.

"Special-Fed" Veal: The majority of veal calves are "special-fed." A veal calf is raised until about 16 to 18 weeks of age, weighing up to 450 pounds. They are raised in specially designed facilities where they can be cared for and monitored.

Special, milk fed, and formula fed are the names given to nutritionally balanced milk or soy based diets fed to calves. These diets contain iron and 40 other essential nutrients, including amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins.

For beef information see Beef - Facts, Safety, Cooking

For ground beef information see Ground Beef

For corned beef information see Corned Beef

How are Veal Calves Housed?

Today's modern, environmentally controlled veal barns provide for animal health and safety. The barns are lighted artificially and by natural light, and a constant source of fresh air is circulated.

Individual stalls are used for the calves. These stalls provide a safe environment where the calves can stand, stretch, groom themselves and lay down in a natural position. These pens are invaluable to the health of the animal. They allow the calves to be individually looked after. The stall's slotted floors allow for efficient removal of waste.


How are Veal Calves Raised?

Veal calves are observed individually and are provided with specialized care. They also receive a milk replacer diet that provided all of the 40 vitamins and minerals they require.

Veal calves are usually separated from the cows within 3 days after birth, allowing for control of diseases and monitoring the dairy cow for udder problems.

Veal farmers monitor each calf for health deficiencies such as anemia. The feed is controlled to meet the calves' iron needs. Individual stalls allow veal farmers and veterinarians to closely monitor the health of each calf and properly treat a calf with a specific, government approved antibiotic. Health products for use with veal calves are approved by the Food and Drug Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services and the manufacturers before being put on the market. The FDA also regulates the labeling of the product, the doses permitted, and withdrawal period.

Is Clenbuterol Used in Veal Raising?

No, clenbuterol is an illegal drug in this country. Clenbuterol is not a hormone. Its illegal use in show animals is linked to its ability to induce weight gain and a greater proportion of muscle to fat.

Clenbuterol residues can affect lung and heart function in persons who have eaten liver or meat of animals given the drug. USDA considers any residue of clenbuterol in meat unacceptable because of this. At the present time there have been no reported cases of illness related to clenbuterol in the United States.

The Clenbuterol Exploratory Program tests for clenbuterol in formula fed veal. As part of this program, a multi-tier program of testing was conducted in 1994 to randomly test for clenbuterol. During the testing period, all samples were negative for clenbuterol in edible tissue, including formula fed veal. The current random sampling program for formula fed veal will continue until July 1997.

Are Hormones and Antibiotics Used In Veal Raising?

Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in the veal calf. Penicillin is not used in calf raising: tetracycline has been approved but is not widely used.

No hormones are used in veal raising.

How is Veal Inspected?

All veal in retail stores is either USDA inspected for wholesomeness or inspected by state systems which have standards equal to the federal government. Each calf and its internal organs are inspected for signs of disease. The "Passed and Inspected by USDA" seal insures the veal is wholesome and free from disease.

Is Veal Graded?

Veal and calf carcasses are graded on a composite evaluation of two general grade factors: conformation (proportion of lean, fat, and bone in carcass); and quality of the lean. In addition, the color of the lean carcasses is key in differentiating between veal, calf and beef carcasses.

There are five grades for veal: prime, choice, good, standard, utility.

Grading is voluntary; a plant pays to have its meat graded.

When veal is graded, a shield-shaped purple mark is stamped on the carcass. With today's close trimming at the retail level, however, you may not see the USDA grade shield on the meat cuts at the store. Instead, retailers put stickers with the USDA grade shield on individual packages of meat. In addition, grade shields and inspection legends may appear on bags containing larger wholesale cuts.

Retail Cuts of Fresh Veal

There are seven basic major cuts into which veal is separated: leg (round), sirloin, loin, rib, shoulder, foreshank and breast. When examining a package of veal, the label can help the purchaser identify the meat in the package.

For example, a label stating "veal rib chop" identifies the packaged meat as "veal," the primal or large wholesale cut from the "rib," and the name of the retail cut, "chop." This information helps consumers know what type of preparation method to use. The most readily available cuts of veal today include rib chops, loin chops, cutlets, veal for stew, arm steak, blade steak, rib roast, breast, shanks, and round steak.

How Much Veal is Consumed?

In 1995, Americans consumed about .8 lbs (about 3/4 lb) of veal per person yearly, down from 2.8 lbs in 1975.

What Does "Natural" Mean?

All fresh meat qualifies as "natural." Products labeled "natural" cannot contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed (ground, for example). All products claiming to be natural should be accompanied by a brief statement which explains what is meant by the term "natural".

Color of Veal

Veal is classified as a "red" meat, but typical lean meat on a veal carcass has a grayish pink color. Typical calf carcasses have a grayish red color of lean meat.

Dating of Veal Products

Product dating is not required by federal regulations. However, many stores and processors may voluntarily date packages of raw veal or processed veal products. If a date is shown, there must be a phrase explaining the meaning of the date.

If a manufacturer has determined a "use by" date, observe it. This is a quality assurance date after which peak quality begins to lessen but the product may still be used. It is always best to buy a product before its date expires.

What Foodborne Organisms are Associated with Veal?

Escherichia coli can colonize in the intestines of animals, which could contaminate muscle meat at slaughter. E. coli O157:H7 is a rare strain that produces large quantities of a potent toxin that forms in and causes severe damage to the lining of the intestine. The disease produced by it is called Hemorrhagic Colitis and is characterized by bloody diarrhea. E. coli O157:H7 is easily destroyed by thorough cooking.

Salmonellae may be found in the intestinal tracts of livestock, poultry, dogs, cats and other warm-blooded animals. There are about 2,000 Salmonella species. Freezing doesn't kill this microorganism but it is destroyed by thorough cooking. Salmonellae must be eaten to cause illness. They cannot enter the body through a skin cut. Cross contamination can occur if raw meat or its juices contact cooked food or foods that will be eaten raw such as salad.

How to Handle and Store Veal Safely

Fresh veal is kept cold during distribution to retail stores to prevent growth of bacteria. If possible, put packages of veal in disposable plastic bags, to contain leakage which could cross contaminate cooked foods or produce. Take veal home immediately and refrigerate it at 40 degrees.

Use veal chops and roasts within 3 to 5 days, and ground veal or stew meat within 1 to 2 days.

You may freeze veal at 0 degrees. If kept frozen, veal will be safe indefinitely, although the quality can be affected with extended freezing. For best quality use veal chops and roasts within 4 to 6 months and ground veal or stew meat within 3 to 4 months.

It is not important if a date expires after freezing veal because all foods stay safe while properly frozen.

Rinsing Veal

It isn't necessary to wash raw veal before cooking it. Any bacteria which might be present on the surface would be destroyed by cooking and wet meat won't brown well.

Safe Defrosting

There are three safe methods that can be used to defrost veal: in the refrigerator; in cold water; and in the microwave. When thawing in the refrigerator, estimate 4 to 7 hours per pound for a large roast, 3 to 5 hours per pound for a small roast, and about 12 hours for 1-inch thick rib or shoulder chops. Ground veal defrosting time depends on the thickness of the package.

To defrost veal in cold water, do not remove packaging. Be sure the package is airtight or put it into a leakproof bag. Submerge the veal in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold. Small packages of veal may defrost in an hour or less: a 3 to 4 pound roast may take 2 to 3 hours. When thawing in cold water or in the microwave immediately cook the veal. Never thaw on the counter or in other locations.

Ground veal and stew meat should be used in 1 or 2 days. Other cuts of veal should be safe in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days before cooking.

Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing because they may potentially have been held at temperatures above 40F, where bacteria multiply rapidly.

It is safe to cook frozen veal in the oven or on the stove or grill without defrosting. Estimate one-third to one-half more cooking time depending upon the size of the meat. Broil frozen veal farther away from the heat source; preheating the skillet when pan-frying or pan-broiling. Do not cook frozen veal in a slow cooker.


Marinate veal in the refrigerator up to 5 days for chops, roasts or steaks. Veal cubes or stew meat can be marinated up to 1 to 2 days. Boil used marinade before brushing on cooked veal. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.


Irradiation has not been approved for use on veal products.

Partial Cooking

Never brown or partially cook veal to refrigerate and finish because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed. It is safe to partially pre-cook or microwave beef immediately before transferring it to the hot grill to finish cooking.

Cooking Veal

There are two basic methods of veal cookery: dry or moist heat. Tender cuts can be prepared by dry or moist heat. Tender cuts including leg cutlets, veal patties, and rib or loin chops can be prepared by dry heating methods such as roasting, broiling, pan broiling, grilling or stir frying.

Moist heat methods such as braising or simmering with a liquid can also be used with these cuts. Less tender cuts, such as cross cut shanks, stew meat, round steak and breast of veal, generally require moist heat cooking methods such as braising, or simmering with a liquid. By marinating and pounding less tender cuts to break down connective tissue, dry heating methods can be used. Refer to the chart on the following page for approximate cooking times.


For meal planning, follow times on this chart compiled from various resources. Use a meat thermometer to be sure the veal reaches a safe temperature.

Rib Roast 4 to 5 lbs. Roast 325? F 25 to 27 min/lb Medium 160? F
29 to 31 min/lb Well done 170? F
Loin 3 to 4 lbs. Roast 325? F 34 to 36 min/lb Medium 160? F
38 to 40 min/lb Well done 170? F
Loin/Rib Chops 1" thick or 8 oz. Broil/Grill 7 min per side Medium 160? F
8 to 9 min per side Well done 170? F
Cutlets 1/8" thick *Pan fry 3 to 4 min Medium 160? F
1/4" thick 5 to 6 min
Arm/Blade Steak 3/4" thick 16 oz. Broil/Grill 7 min per side Medium 160? F
8 min per side Well Done 170? F
Cross Cut Shanks 1 1/2" thick Cover with liquid; simmer 1 to 1 1/4 hrs Fork Tender or 160? F
Stew Meat 1 to 1 1/2" cubes/pieces Cover with liquid: simmer 45 to 60 min Fork Tender or 160? F
Boneless Breast, stuffed 2 to 2.5 lbs **Braise 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hrs Fork Tender or 160? F
4 to 4.5 lbs 2 to 2 1/2 hrs
Round Steak 1/4" thick **Braise 30 minutes Fork Tender or 160? F
1/2" thick 45 minutes

* Pan Frying, which is often called "saut?ing," is a quick cooking method. Meat is placed in small amount of heated oil and cooked on medium-high heat.
** Braising is roasting or simmering less tender meats with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

Microwave Directions:

Veal Resources:

Recommended Resources

 The Meat Buyers Guide : Meat, Lamb, Veal, Pork and Poultry 

 Williams-Sonoma Mastering: Beef & Veal: made easy with step-by-step photographs 

 Beef & Veal (The Good Cook Techniques & Recipes Series) 

 More Than Gourmet Glace De Veau GoldŽ Reduced Veal Stock, 1.5-Ounce Units (Pack of 6)