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What is "anemic veal"?

In the past several decades, the premium veal industry has increased profits by putting into large-scale operation a technique that prevents a weaned calf from developing myoglobin. The chosen animal, which spends the last part of its short life in an indoor stall with limited opportunity for exercise, is fed a special formula of water infused with dry milk solids, fats, and other nutrients.

Like cow's milk, the liquid is virtually iron-free; unlike cow's milk, it is relatively cheap and contains none of the butter fat that helps give veal its sublime flavor. Leaving nothing to chance, the calf engineers keep metal objects like pails and pipes well beyond reach of a calf's licking tongue, lest the wrong minerals enter the digestive system. In effect, some premium veal products in the marketplace are from animals raised by man to be anemic. Thus, the expression "anemic veal".

Another drawback of veal from a typical "special formula" calf is an inappropriately coarse texture. A calf's flesh at birth is fine-grained to a fault, but as the animal ages it coarsens. When the calf is three months old, the texture of the muscle grain is ideal - neither too fine nor too coarse. At four months, the texture becomes too coarse to merit epicurean raves, moreover, the sought-after veal flavor is better from a three-month-old calf than from a four-month-old. Normal milk-fed calves are traditionally slaughtered at the age of about three months, but "special formula" calves are usually slaughtered at about four months. The additional month - a 33 percent increase in life span - does make a profound difference. Why do the special-formula calf raisers wait the extra month? More growing time means more meat per animal and therefore larger profits.

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