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Extensive rewrite:

Young meat is considered unfit for human consumption by the European Union:

"derives from animals which are dead before slaughter, stillborn, unborn or slaughtered under the age of seven days;" Chapter V, EC 854/2004 [PDF], page 22.

According to a photocopy I have: "The meat is pale, bland and gelatinous. The bones are bland. The fats are grey and filthy. These meats do not have nutritious value and provoke diarrhoea." I do not have a reference for this quote.

The question is whether there is objective evidence supporting this claim. What is the European legislation based on?

Added (note the 'may'):

decisions concerning meat. All meat which may constitute a danger to human health shall be declared unfit for human consumption. This includes meat from animals which have not undergone ante-mortem inspection (excluding wild game), meat from animals whose offal has not undergone post-mortem inspection, meat from animals which were dead before slaughter, stillborn, unborn or slaughtered under the age of seven days, meat from animals affected by a notifiable animal disease, meat not in conformity with the biological and radioactivity criteria, meat containing specified risk materials, chemical residues or veterinary medicinal products in excess of the permitted limits. In addition, the veterinarian may impose requirements concerning the use of meat derived from animals having undergone emergency slaughter outside the slaughterhouse.

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If some cultures eat fetus, doesn't that answer the question? No culture prizes indigestible meat that causes diarrhea. –  Yamikuronue Mar 27 '12 at 12:19
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I can't say with determinism, but I highly doubt there is anything behind this. I can't conceive of anything that would make animal protein more stomach-friendly as the animal ages. –  Sean Hart Mar 27 '12 at 13:42
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It doesn't get much younger than an egg, does it? Balyut is edible too. The high fat content of young animals might conceivably cause digestive upset, as with eating any rich food in bulk. I suspect that historically, prohibitions against eating infant animals is more of a wastefulness issue; the yield is very little meat for all the feed and time involved in them coming to term. –  BobMcGee Apr 10 '12 at 16:19
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I agree with BobMcGee. When raising animals for food you need to have a point at which the investment of time, feed and amount of product pays off. Anything younger than traditional veal age is discouraged because you don't get enough meat to make it pay. –  Chef Flambe Apr 24 '12 at 5:02
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I'm rereading Bob's comment and wondering if that may in fact have something to do with the reported digestive upsets and the EU regulations. Possibly, in the past (and maybe the present), since the yield/profitability was so minuscule, the only animals that were actually being slaughtered/sold so young were sick ones, or unfit for consumption for other reasons. We might be looking at a set of laws and anecdotes that confuse correlation with causation. –  Aaronut May 15 '12 at 0:50
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think that the regulation is there to prevent the marketing of meat from stillborn animals or aborted animals. The EU wants animals to be inspected before they are killed and after they have been killed, and it wants the killing process to be done under certain conditions. Obviously a stillborn/aborted animal does not satisfy these requirements.

And an animal that has been killed while very young may be hard to tell from an aborted one.

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