Veal, which is the meat from very young calves, is tender and light. It is especially popular in European cooking. Osso buco, which means “bone with a hole,” is also known as “knuckle.”

Veal is any portion of meat from a calf that is less than four months of age. “True” veal is from calves that are raised only on milk. The cuts are especially tender and lean. Because dairy cattle must produce offspring annually for continued milk supply, it is the young males from these breeds that are butchered.

Europeans have long appreciated the fine qualities of veal. Osso buco, saltimbocca, and wiener schnitzel are among the best-known dishes.


Veal is voluntarily USDA graded like beef, although the term “select” is listed as “good” instead. It is also categorized by how the calf was raised and fed.

“Bob” veal – Refers to calves less than a month old.

Special-Fed – Calves that are fed milk-only or nutrient-rich formula diets. Each calf is monitored for optimum health standards. The calves are contained in an individual, comfortable stall and therefore do not develop muscular or fibrous tissue. These are the most commonly sold.

Grain-Fed – Also known as “red” veal as the calves receive grain and hay along with milk and are allowed to roam freely in small lots.

Buying Tips

Tender cuts will come from the loin, breast, and leg. Tougher, less expensive sections are from the shoulder. Veal is prepared as ground or stew meat, breast, roast, chops (rib or loin), round steak, and cutlets (also called scallops, escalopes or scalloppine).

Unless labeled as grain-fed, the meat should be whitish in color with pink highlights. Bones are flexible. Marbling will be light.

Storage Tips

Smaller cuts will not keep as long – use within two days of purchase. Larger pieces can remain refrigerated up to four days. Veal freezes well: at least three months for ground and up to twelve months for larger pieces.

Usage Tips

Veal is typically prepared by stewing, roasting, braising, or sautéing. It responds best to moist heat and will become tough with overcooking.

When grilling, keep the meat moist with olive oil or a basting liquid.

It is easy to overpower the meat’s mild flavor; pair with lighter sauces and seasonings.

Sear the meat before adding veal to a simmering dish.

Drape uncooked bacon slices over roasts to add flavor and prevent drying.