Diet Nutrition

Vegan butchers and meatless-meat for vegans and meat-lovers alike

Though it sounds like an oxymoron, meatless-meat is a growing movement all over the world - and has made its way to New Zealand.

By Alex Blackwood

"When people hear 'vegan butcher's shop', it'll piss them off or they'll be really excited about it but either way they tell someone," says Kale Walch, founder of Minneapolis' The Herbivorous Butcher. And indeed that does partially explain the immense popularity of the shop - it isn't a chain and yet it has 78,000 Facebook followers and reviews above 4.5 stars.

And of course the meat is not made of meat and the cheese is dairy-free. Everything is 100% plant based using creatively prepared ingredients such as soy and butternut squash, white beans, cashews to create a fairly exhaustive menu of "meats" and "cheeses".

And, crucially, reviews say that "the flavor profiles were spot on."

The comment sections of their social media are full of impassioned comments from a mix of naysayers and adoring fans with one questions standing out - why would vegans want to make their food in the shape of processed animal meat?

The resounding answer is that veganism isn't about not liking the taste, texture or shape of meat, it is usually about being against animal cruelty. A nice upshot of that same rationale is that The Herbivorous Butcher is not just a cool novelty for regular meat-eaters, but a way to see that they can give up animal cruelty without having to give up bacon or steak or ribs or cheese.

Looking closer to home, on Kiwi shores, similar vegan businesses selling meat-free-meat are taking off.

Sunfed Foods, a New Zealand company that makes meat alternatives such as "chicken-free chicken", made of plant protein, is popping up in supermarkets around the country. The company is even ruffling the feathers of New Zealand Poultry Industry Association.

Anyone looking for a bite to eat on Auckland's Queen Street or Karangahape Road recently may find themselves biting into a burger, hot dog or chicken nuggets at Lord of the Fries and not know until later that their meal was meat-free. Because it tastes the same. Better, even.

And even if you aren't an animal lover, you can't help but see the benefits of that - these meals look and taste the same as "the real thing" and Shrink That Footprint shows the carbon footprint of a vegetarian's diet to be about half that of a meat lover - the difference is even more dramatic for a vegan. This is all despite the fact that across those three diets, the energy intake is the same.

Of course this is all fairly unsurprising after the Food and Agriculture Organization announced that a whopping 18% of global emissions result from livestock. It's not the kind of thing we would want to discuss over the barbie, it's a very Kiwi problem given our main exports are dairy, meat and wool.

But given that technology has already progressed to a rate where meat is being grown in petri dishes and we can get affordable, great tasting vegan meat at the supermarket, we might soon live in a New Zealand where it isn't awkward at all to show up with vegan sausages. They might not even notice.

And for the record, before I get accused of pushing a vegan agenda, I'm not vegan. Just the other day I ate a cheeseburger. Though now I am starting to think it might be my last.