Ever since we launched our meatbox business back in 2015, we’ve been looking for ways to diversify, and to give people who choose to eat meat additional ethical options to choose from.
Dairy is at the core of our operation here at Coombe Farm Organic. It is where our story began. Coombe Farm have been farming a dairy herd organically for generations and we think it is crucial for our dairy and meat businesses to work in tandem to drive more sustainable practices.
In 2020, we introduced our Organic Retired Dairy Beef range. We retire a handful of the milking herd each month to produce some stunning cuts of meat. 'Basque beef' is incredibly popular in Spain, and this is our UK and organic equivalent.
Organic Rose Veal is the latest way our farming team are developing sustainable produce. Making use of male dairy calves, the veal is fed a diet of whole organic milk, grass and protein-rich cake, so it produces highly nutritious meat with a fine-grained, smooth texture. The meat is more tender and leaner than beef with a melt-in-the-mouth delicate flavour and distinctive rose-pink tint.
Why are we rearing organic rose veal?
If we agree dairy is a vital industry for British farming, we need to face up to the issue of surplus male calves. With little control of what happens to calves once they are sold at market, and live transportation over 14 days old to the continent still legal in the UK, our farming team wanted to find a sustainable solution that aligns with our ethical approach to rearing organic livestock.
By adding organic rose veal to our diet, we are supporting a viable alternative to the natural consequence of producing dairy, helping to close the loop and keep animals in the herd. Supporters include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jimmy Doherty, the former stating ‘To be honest, if you drink milk or eat cheese, it's crueller not to eat [it]’.
Rose veal is a fantastic product, and can be eaten with a clear conscience when sourced from reputable farms. Instead of the typical six months for indoor-reared veal in the UK, our veal is grown slowly to ten months old, with plenty of grass, forage, and fibre in the diet as well as organic whole milk. Compare this to chickens that are grown to 70 days, and lambs grown to eight months, it would be more accurate to describe veal as ‘young beef’ rather than ‘calves’ which conjure up images of much younger animals.
Our supply will be limited because we are not actively breeding veal herds.
How are the animals reared?
Organic rose veal is reared like any other organic animal – a free-range, outdoor life, living in small, sociable groups, eating a natural diet sourced from the farm. Veal can evoke negative connotations for some people who remember the dreadful production of ‘white’ veal, where calves were housed indoors in cramped crates on a diet of fortified milk and solids, with very little fibre. Veal crates were banned in the UK in 1992 and subsequently throughout the EU at the end of 2006. Veal crates were individual pens without enough room for the calves to turn round, lie down properly, or even groom themselves.
Whilst crates are banned (having been replaced with larger ‘hutches’), the conditions that many conventional veal calves face involve year-round indoor rearing. Organic standards stipulate that calves must have access to outdoor grazing and space to roam, and here at Coombe Farm our veal forage in small sociable groups on grass, spring flowers and dock leaves. The calves love to chase each other around the paddock and having a good scratch on the fence posts too. At night, they rest in warm, cosy sheds with fresh straw.
Nose to tail eating
As with all of Coombe Farm Organic products, our team of butchers are maximising the carcass to offer a range of nose-to-tail cuts. From escalopes to offal, osso buco to cheeks and oxtail, the new organic rose veal range includes more than 25 lean and tender organic cuts to choose from.
Rich in protein and iron, organic rose veal is lean, lower in fat than beef and gives a subtle, melt-in-the-mouth flavour with little to no seasoning required. Indulgent cuts such as sirloin steaks, osso buco and fillet steaks are perfect for special occasions whilst our chuck, minute and hanger steaks make quick but delicious midweek meals that will also sizzle away nicely on the BBQ come summer. Juicy roasting joints such as rolled brisket, rump roast and topside will become your new Sunday roast favourites.
And don’t miss our Organic Rose Veal Taster Box – a curated selection of classic rose veal cuts plus an exclusive recipe from award-winning cook and writer Ed Smith. Ed is the author of three books; The Borough Market Cookbook; On The Side and Crave – winner of the Cookery Book of the Year at the Fortnum and Masons Food and Drink Awards 2022.
For more inspiration, head over to our recipe page.