REAL AUSTRALIA

Farmers' take on the fake and flowers bloom despite the drought

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by group editor Kathy Sharpe.

I've been struggling to get my head around the sudden and meteoric rise of meat substitute products.

As we know, a small range of strange vegetable protein-based bacon rashers and burgers have long lurked unwanted at the back of the supermarket cold shelf.

But now, a new industry has risen up to make food that imitates the taste and texture of animal products - using coconut butter to imitate marbling in the beef, and apple juice to get the burger to change colour from red to brown when cooking.

Ashley Walmsley, the editor of Australian Community Media's national horticulture magazine Good Fruit and Vegetables, has his own take on the fake. For context, Ashley leads a double life as a comedian and this is how his alter ego, The Ringer, sees the situation.

THE RINGER: AKA Good Fruit and Vegetables editor Ashley Walmsley.

THE RINGER: AKA Good Fruit and Vegetables editor Ashley Walmsley.

The restaurant industry is lapping it up - meeting demand for a generation that genuinely wants to decrease their carbon footprint, live a healthier life and be kind to animals.

And I applaud all three of those sentiments.

I guess my problem with it all started when I read that they've created fake blood to ooze from some of these products to imitate real beef. Now I'm confused.

ACM's big wide readership area covers the places where much of Australia's food is grown. There were plenty of views flying around at the annual AgQuip field days held in Gunnedah in August.

FOOD FOR THOIGHT: Santa Gertrudis Breeders' Association general manager Chris Todd samples a real piece of beef at the AgQuip field days in Gunnedah, NSW.

FOOD FOR THOIGHT: Santa Gertrudis Breeders' Association general manager Chris Todd samples a real piece of beef at the AgQuip field days in Gunnedah, NSW.

Senior journalist Andrew Marshall, who writes on agribusiness for The Land and other agricultural publications such as Queensland Country Life, found that producers were mostly concerned with how the product was being marketed, warning that people should do their homework about what they were actually eating.

Red Meat Advisory Council chairman Don Mackay said there was no substitute for a "simple, natural, quality tasting food made from sunshine and grass which doesn't mimic anything".

Todd Heyman, from Seelands in the Clarence Valley of NSW, agreed, adding: "My cattle enjoy a better life than I do".

World-wide, alternative meat industries have been watching consumers closely to see if it's just a passing fad. It's not.

Beyond Meat, whose share price has jumped around 600 per cent since the company went public last month, has had its stock deliciously described by Wall Street analysts as "overweight".

It's predicted the market for meat substitutes could soar to $140 billion over the next decade.

The Ringer's humour no doubt brought some welcome smiles to the producers gathered at Gunnedah. But there seems no end in sight to the crippling drought affecting NSW and Queensland.

COME AND PLAY: Greg "Boris" Billing, of Goondiwindi, has gone viral with his festival pitch.

COME AND PLAY: Greg "Boris" Billing, of Goondiwindi, has gone viral with his festival pitch.

In all the towns worst affected, the message is the same: if you want to help us, come and visit. Spend your money, meet the locals and show your support.

To this end, a passionate local from drought-stricken Goondiwindi in Queensland, Greg "Boris" Billing, has appealed to Australia to attend a major music and art festival in the town - an appeal that has gone viral.

In his post, published in the Goondiwindi Argus, Boris lists the heartbreaking effect of the prolonged dry, but he is proof that the town's spirit has not been broken.

To end with some bouquets to cheer you up, Geraldine Cardozo from The Senior has put together a guide to Spring flower festivals happening around Australia. So, get out there and enjoy the season and cross your fingers for some much-needed rain soon.

Kathy Sharpe

Group editor, ACM

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