Sonia Nair is a food writer in Melbourne and the Deputy GM of Right Now Magazine. She blogs at Whatever Floats Your Bloat and tweets here.

If you’ve watched people’s faces after bringing up the subject of mock meat, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the worst thing since Bill Shorten’s all-white ‘Employ Australians First’ ad. Mock meat is as divisive a subject as they come, on par with the question of whether you should refrigerate tomato sauce (the answer is no).

And it’s everywhere at the moment. Germany is leading a global vegan revolution, with traditional German foods such as bratwurst and schnitzel being substituted by plant proteins such as soy, wheat and tofu that are given the texture and consistency of meat.

America is light years ahead of everyone else when it comes to mock meat innovation – the Bay Area is the global hub for the alternative meat industry, while American alternative meat companies raised $4.9 billion in sales last year. Condé Nast predicted that mock meat would be a 2017 food trend, even going as far as to mention the vegan ribs at Sydney-based Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher. 

Our Seitan Fillet is so versatile. Use it in curries, smother it in your favourite sauce, marinade or crumb it. Perfect chicken alternative. #suzyspoons #veganprotein #veganproducts #vegetarianbutcher #veganbutcher #seitan #seitanfillet #nomeat #fauxmeat #crueltyfree #plantbased #plantpower #plantprotein

A post shared by Suzy Spoons Vegetarian Butcher (@suzyspoonsvegetarianbutcher) on


What’s interesting about mock meat is that it elicits the same strong reaction from meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike, albeit for different reasons – the former think it’s a poor substitute for meat and the latter deride fellow plant eaters for eating it because you can’t be seen ostensibly batting for the opposing team when there are vegetables and tofu to be had. Besides, it’s not very good for you, or something, even though people actually don’t go vegetarian or vegan solely for health. 

Seonmi Lee, co-founder of Fitzroy-based vegetarian stalwart Yong Green, doesn’t understand the fuss. Mock meat features in several of Yong Green’s menu items, although Seonmi – who was initially a raw food vegan when she first established Yong Green – is focused more on making her own miso and finding new ways to prepare her supply of organically farmed vegetables. 

Regram from @eatveganmelbourne ??? One of my favourite burgers in Melbourne! At @yonggreenfood ?????? definitely a must try. Thanks for the photo and tag @little.things.culture ?? #eatveganmelbourne

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“Everyone has different tastes and seeks comfort or nourishment or pleasure in different kinds of foods at different times. Some days, only a greasy mock chicken burger will do.”

“Some people stop eating meat for ethical reasons, not because they don’t like the taste of it. For them, I think mock meat can provide a familiar texture and flavour, something that hits an emotional need from childhood.”

Lee has a point. After all, what’s the harm in eating facon if it doesn’t involve the killing of an animal?

Dr Anthony Yeuong, who recently opened the predominantly vegetarian café Market on Malvern in Prahran says he decided not to include mock meat in his café’s menu because it’s simply not that healthy. 

[The] majority of mock meat comprises soy proteins. For people who are at risk of excessive phytoestrogens, mock meat may have side effects and affect their wellbeing. The majority is also high in sodium and various chemical binders, which may not be the healthiest addition to our diets.

But it’s not all bad news.

“Some of the benefits of mock meat is that it is high in protein, which will assist vegetarians in consuming sufficient protein sources for producing energy and cognition,” Dr Yeuong adds.

I don’t know about you, but it’s refreshing to hear someone with medical expertise expand on the drawbacks and benefits of mock meat. Too often, it is hijacked by guilty meat eaters who emphasise how it doesn’t taste or look anything like real meat (have these guys ever had a bloody plant patty?) and sanctimonious plant eaters who think they can lord their wholefoods diet over their fake-meat-consuming-but-equally-real-meat-abstaining vegetarian and vegan peers. 

Why can’t we concede that mock meat is neither as healthy nor as environmental as a celery stick, yet is highly tasty and provides an ethical way for vegetarians to feel at ease at a barbecue? To this omnivore, fake nuggets i.e. fuggets are close to the best thing I’ve ever eaten and I don’t think plant eaters who are better people than me should be pilloried for eating them. 

Photo: Getty Images.