I can't believe it's not bacon: 'Fake meat' trend grows in popularity

BRINGING HOME THE FACON: Four Seasons Bistro owner-chef Derek Hamlen has introduced alternative plant-based meat substitutes to the menu, such as 'facon' bacon.
BRINGING HOME THE FACON: Four Seasons Bistro owner-chef Derek Hamlen has introduced alternative plant-based meat substitutes to the menu, such as 'facon' bacon.

To eat meat or to not eat meat? That is the question and the answer depends on which side of the farm fence you sit on.

To Four Seasons Bistro owner-chef Derek Hamlen, the solution is simple.

Mr Hamlen, who has been a chef for more than 40 years, added alternative plant-based meat substitutes to the menu recently.

When he made 36 sausage substitutes on the weekend, 35 were sold and one customer ordered three dozen to take home.

"I think plant-based dining is definitely the way of future. In the last five to six years we've seen the trend really spike and it's just going up and up," he said.

"By 2030 half of the big chains will be using 50 per cent meat alternatives. It's already coming into the mainstream, [fast food restaurants] have been able to offer that alternative."

Medway Farm's James Galbraith said he believed the alternative meat business would not have a big impact on local farming businesses.

Four Seasons Bistro's sausage substitute. Photo: Supplied

Four Seasons Bistro's sausage substitute. Photo: Supplied

"The demand [for meat] both locally and internationally is growing," the beef and lamb farmer said.

"In the short term I don't think it will be able to compete with the real meat grown on farms."

Mr Galbraith said he believed meat production could be both environmentally-friendly and respectful to animals.

"I think that fake meat is gaining interest as a lot of people are rightly worried about where and how their meat is produced," he said.

"I believe that meat can be produced in a manner that both enhances the environment and respects the animal's welfare, so our job is to show people this is the case.

"In our local area that has a strong agricultural presence I think most people understand how hard the local farmers work to look after their land and their animals so I don't think the majority of locals would go for fake meat over real meat."

Mr Galbraith's website identifies an "ethical approach to stock handling" and "a diet of pasture" for the cows.

Southern Highlands Veggie Group founder Heather Edwards said meat substitutes were growing in popularity.

"I think that you'll see a lot of farmers transitioning out of meat and dairy and into plant-based products," Ms Edwards said.

"I think this is the way of the future. It's to help with global warming and animal kindness."

Ms Edwards encouraged people to start small if they were considering a vegan or vegetarian diet.

"If you think about what's on your plate, change one thing at a time. It's a start," she said.

"There's so many alternatives you can get. If you want bacon, there's fake bacon and if you want mayonnaise, there's egg replacers. There's nothing I go without in my diet."