A Better Option: Strauss Free Raised

A Better Option: Strauss Free Raised

I stopped eating veal decades ago. I’ve always eaten some meat, and I loved veal as a child (Veal Cordon Bleu was a specialty of my Mother’s). But after the horror stories of how veal was raised began to emerge — tethering, close confinement, an unnatural diet, separation from the mother a young age — I just couldn’t bring myself to consume it. Many Americans reacted by merely shunning this meat, but one company, Strauss Brands, sought to begin correcting the situation. They have made a new start with Free Raised veal, which goes back to the way all veal calves used to be raised for centuries, up until the mid-1900s.

Strauss Free Raised Veal Chops with Ratatouille and Herb Butter, the recipe can be found on the company's website.

Strauss Free Raised Veal Chops with Ratatouille and Herb Butter, the recipe can be found on the company's website.

This business partners with farmers and ranchers committed to treating cattle humanely. Consequently, the veal calves live with the herd outdoors, in open pastures. They nurse from their mothers and graze when and where they please. And what they don’t have may be even better than what they do: no animal by-products, no milk-replacement formula, no confined quarters or being raised in a feedlot, no growth hormones, no antibiotics.

Strauss Free Raised veal is never tethered or raised in confinement, but allowed to roam free on natural open pastures alongside mother and herd.

Strauss Free Raised veal is never tethered or raised in confinement, but allowed to roam free on natural open pastures alongside mother and herd.

Meat color is a direct reflection of a calf’s diet and environment; the richer color indicative of outstanding flavor (a far cry from the eerily-pale “white” veal of my youth), comes from increased iron consumption that results from calves grazing and nursing.

A selection of Strauss Free Raised products, available at Whole Foods.

A selection of Strauss Free Raised products, available at Whole Foods.

By happy coincidence, pasture-raising veal can be better for the environment. Properly grazed pastures, according to the Strauss Free Raised website, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as efficiently as forested land. Additionally, these pastures reduce both topsoil erosion and the need for synthetic fertilizers (the cattle furnish a lot of natural fertilizer of their own!). The notorious collection lagoons of feedlot-raised cattle do not exist in this type of set up. Further, Strauss uses biodegradable cleaning supplies, has eliminated the use of disposable plastic aprons and gloves in their facility, and maximizes the use of varietal meats and by-products to cut down on landfill waste.

Strauss Free Raised Veal Osso Buco with Red Potatoes and Crimini Mushrooms, recipe on their website.

Strauss Free Raised Veal Osso Buco with Red Potatoes and Crimini Mushrooms, recipe on their website.

Temple Grandin is an acclaimed consultant on animal behavior for the livestock industry. Strauss Free Raised has worked with her to ensure that their veal calves have the most comfortable and “natural behavior” life they can. Many experts in animal behavior now agree that good treatment and a minimally stressful life result in better-tasting meat. I’ve tasted this veal, and I’m sure those experts are on to something. The veal is available at selected retailers (including Whole Foods) and via a few websites, such as AllenBrothers.com.

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
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