Vegetarian Culture

Vegetarian Culture: The UK vs Australia

My meat free experience over the past year has been a strange one. A great one, an interesting one and a varied one, but strange never the less. In a country that has a vegetarian population of 10%, I want excitement, creativity and satisfaction when it comes to my dining preferences. I want there to be healthy, plant based choices on every menu and I would love it if the big supermarket chains would recognise this lifestyle choice a little bit more than they currently do.

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Let me begin by saying that I became a vegetarian in 1995, I was 10 and the UK market was just beginning to acknowledge the existence of non-meat eaters. Supermarkets offered a limited range of meat free options and health food stores offered a similar variety but at inflated prices. Of course there was always lots of veg to choose from and tofu has always been a favourite in the ‘World Foods’ aisle. At this point in time I didn’t find it hard to sustain my new found vegetarianism, my mother however, may disagree!

Over the last 20 years vegetarianism in the UK has really taken off, there are currently around 3 million people in Britain who would regard themselves to be vegetarian. And that figure grows each year.
Quorn is the UK’s biggest meat alternative provider, accounting for 60% of all meat replacement products sold. It was launched in 1985 and currently enjoys annual sales of 95 million pounds. Looking at Quorn as a brand, you can see its popularity and why it has reached almost dizzying heights in the UK market place. It has celebrity endorsements (Ryan Giggs, Will Carling, Sally Gunnell and currently Mo Farah), a really impressive range of chilled and frozen food, and the options on offer are extensive. Really extensive. Their UK website boasts over 90 individual products which are a mixture of freezer favourites and clever and somewhat imaginative ready meals. If you compare this to its sister site, quorn.com.au, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I was.
The Aussie version of the Quorn website has somehow been lost in translation. Yes, it’s colourful, it’s vibrant, it does it’s best to tantalise those senses, but with a mere 20 items currently available across the country, it may as well be non existent. On a recent visit to my local Coles store there were 5 frozen Quorn products available, less than 20% of the entire range, and they were expensive. Personally, I think $8 for 2 frozen pies is quite a lot. If you compare this to the 4 pack of beef and onion or the chicken and vegetable pies a few freezers down, for a lowly 5 bucks, you’ll understand my point.
I love Quorn, it’s a great source of protein, it’s low in fat, contains no cholesterol and is so versatile. I really hope it can breakthrough into the Australian market en masse and enjoy the recognition here as it does back at home.

Having done research on the topic, it has become apparent that Tasmania is home to a lot of vegetable lovers. On average Tassy has the highest consumption of the daily recommended intake of veg, with 14% of the 515,000 population regularly meeting these targets. They eat a lot of fruit too, 43% happily meet the DRI of 2 servings per day.
This information has made me wonder whether there are a vast quantity of vegetarians and veggie friendly restaurants in Tasmania, or whether all this ‘healthy eating’ is just a by-product of the rolling fields and farmland available.
I conducted a quick search on Zomato and there are 29 restaurants claiming to be vegetarian in and around the major cities. The most popular and highly recommended is Fresh on Charles. It looks fun and funky, atmospheric and cool, however I couldn’t find a menu online to confirm whether it’s plant based or not. Either way, I’m happy to see people are enjoying fresh, healthy produce and hopefully benefiting from all the goodness fruit and veg has to offer.

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I have spent quite a bit of time in some of Australia’s major cities now, Sydney, Brisbane, Geelong, Melbourne, and I have found there to be a variance in attitudes to vegetarianism from place to place. Also, I find it depends on the cuisine. Indian restaurants are amazing, and helpful and always have a vast vegetarian menu. The best menu I have seen was in Nundah in Brisbane, where no less than 29 dishes were suitable for vegetarians.

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Sydney was great, it caters for a lot of different cultures and if you know where to go you can get some really good meat free food. Pubs, cafés, restaurants and food carts all offer impeccable ranges.
Brisbane’s veggie highlight has to be Chinatown in Fortitude Valley. The array of mock-meat is unlike any I have seen. Anywhere!
Melbourne is a foodies paradise, you can be a ‘picky’ eater here and get away with it.
Geelong however, a different story altogether………

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I recently posted a question on the Poms In Oz website asking whether anyone else is finding vegetarianism/veganism a challenge(?) in Australia. It was pretty much a resounding no. There was one guy who felt my pain and thought that going meat free is a less common lifestyle here, so society in general may take a while to catch on and transcend up the scale to an expectation that us Brits have come to rely on and take advantage of.

Overall, my humble opinion on the matter is this: I love being a vegetarian, whether the options are there or not, I will always be a vegetarian. I have grown up alongside a teenage Britain, it has matured and become a wonderful, vegetarian haven where all food products are clearly labeled, restaurants offer veggie food as standard and waiters don’t think you’re crazy for wanting to know whether the dessert is animal free. I have become almost oblivious to this, to this evolution, we have grown as one and as it has changed, I have too.
Australia feels to me how the UK did 10, 20 years ago, it’s a process, it’s a growth, it’s a social state of mind, and right now as long as I have my veggies and my tofu, I’ll be a happy girl. Please check out Without_Cruelty on Instagram for more info ✌ ❤

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