Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Veal - A Breakdown

Cows must calve before they begin to give milk. These calves are the basis of today's veal industry. Veal is the meat of calves under the age of nine months. Most veal comes from calves slaughtered when they are 8 to 16 weeks old, however. Veal is lighter in color than beef and has a more delicate flavor and is generally more tender. Young veal has firm texture, light pink color and very little fat. As soon as a calf starts eating solid food, the iron in the food begins to turn the young animal's meat red. Meat from calves slaughtered when they are older than five months is called calf it tends to be a deeper red, with some marbling and external fat. Veal's low fat content makes it popular meat, especially among those looking for an alternative to beef. Its delicate flavor is complemented by both classic and modern sauces.

After slaughter, the calf meat can be split down the backbone into two bilateral halves or, more typically, cut along the natural curvature between the 11th and 12th ribs into a foresaddle (front portion) and a hindsaddle (rear portion). The veal carcass yields five primal cuts: three from the foresaddle (the shoulder, foreshank and breast, and rib), and two from the hindsaddle (the loin and leg). The veal shoulder, rib and loin primal contain both bilateral portions; that is, a veal loin contains both sides of the animal's loin. As with all meats, it is important to know the location of bones when cutting or working with veal. This makes meat fabrication and carving easier and aids in identifying cuts. A veal carcass weighs in a range of 60 to 245 pounds (27-110 kg).

Foresaddle Shoulder

Similar to the beef shoulder or chuck, the veal shoulder accounts for 21% of the calf weight. It contains four rib bones (as opposed to five in the beef chuck) and portions of the backbone, blade and arm bones. The backbone, blade and arm bones are sometimes removed and the meat roasted or stuffed and roasted.
Although shoulder chops and steaks can be fabricated, they are inferior to the chops cut from more tender areas such as the loin or rib. Often the shoulder meat is ground or cubed for stew. Because of the relatively large amount of connective tissue it contains, meat from the shoulder is best braised or stewed.

Foreshank and Breast

The foreshank and breast are located beneath the shoulder and rib sections on the front half of the meat. They are considered one primal cut. Combined, they account for approximately 16% of the calf weight.
This primal contains rib bones and rib cartilage, breastbones and shank bones. Because the calf is a slaughtered young, many of the breastbones are cartilaginous rather than bony. This cartilage, as well as the ample fat and connective tissue also present in the breast, breaks down during long moist cooking, thus making the flavorful breast a good choice for braising. Veal breast can also be cubed for stews such as veal fricassee and veal blanquette, rolled and stuffed, or trimmed and ground. The foreshank is also very flavorful but tough. It can be braised whole or sliced perpendicular to the shank bone and braised to produce osso bucco.

The double rib, also known as a veal hotel rack, is a very tender, relatively small cut accounting for approximately 9% of the carcass weight. It is very popular and very expensive. The double rack / consists of two racks, each with seven rib bones and a portion of the backbone. Veal racks can be roasted either whole or split into two sides. Veal racks can be boned out; each side produces a veal rib eye and a small piece of tenderloin known as the short tenderloin, both of which make excellent roasts. More often veal racks are trimmed and cut into chops, which can also be bone-in or boneless, to be grilled, sautéed or braised.

Hindsaddle Loin
The veal loin is posterior to the primal rib, contains two ribs (numbers 12 and 13) and accounts for approximately 10% of the calf weight. The loin consists of the loin eye muscle on top of the rib bones and the tenderloin under them.

Veal Loin

The veal loin eye is very tender, and the tenderloin is, without a doubt, the tenderest cut of veal.
If the primal veal loin is separated from the primal leg before the tenderloin is removed, the tenderloin will be cut into two pieces. The small portion (short tenderloin) remains in the primal loin, and the large portion (butt tenderloin) remains in the sirloin portion of the primal leg. The tenderloin is sometimes removed and cut into medallions. The veal loin is often cut into chops, bone-in or boneless. It is usually cooked using dry-heat methods such as broiling, grilling, roasting or sautéing.

LegThe primal veal leg consists of both the sirloin and the leg. Together, they account for approximately 42% of the carcass weight. The primal leg is separated from the loin by a cut perpendicular to he backbone immediately anterior to the hip bone, and it: contains portions of the backbone, tail bone, hip bone, itch hone, round bone and hind shank. Although it is tender enough to he roasted whole, the ideal leg is typically fabricated into cutlets and scallops.

To fabricate these cuts, the leg is first broken down into its major muscles: the top round, eye round, knuckle, sirloin, bottom round (which includes the sirloin) and butt tenderloin. Each of these muscles can be reduced to scallops by trimming all fat and visible connective tissue and dicing against the grain to the desired thickness. The scallops then should be pounded carefully to tenderize them further and to prevent them from curling when cooked. The hindshank is somewhat meatier than the foreshank, but both are prepared and cooked in the same manner.

Because the veal meat is small enough to be handled easily, it is sometimes purchased in forms larger than the primal cuts described earlier. However, most meat markets will have the meat broken down already in easy to handle portions. There are some markets that deal with large cuts of meat, but due to today's technology and consumer behavior, they are becoming more difficult to find. Just ask your Doris' meat manager about the diiferent types of veal we carry or just look in the meat case to whet your appetite for some veal delicacy. (source:

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