Fable: plant-based meat with a story
A vegetarian and two mushroom geeks walked into a bar… No, this is not the beginning of a bad joke – it’s the beginning of a fable. Fable is the brainchild of former fashion executive Michael Fox and mushroom experts Jim Fuller and Chris McLoghlin. The three have joined forces to create a mushroom-based meat alternative that has the texture and umami flavours of real slow-cooked meat.
“In 2018, I took six months off after my second child was born,” Fox says. “During that time, I ended up reading about lots of different things that interested me. I’ve been vegetarian for four and a half years, and one of the areas that I was reading about was industrial animal agriculture and all challenges of that in terms of people’s health, the environment and ethics. I became very passionate about the idea of helping to contribute towards an end to industrial animal agriculture – at least in the way that we do it in our society today.”
Fox decided he could use his entrepreneurial skills to bring a new plant-based meat alternative to market – one made with a whole food base.
“As I wasn’t from the food industry, I went out to talk to a bunch of people who were,” he says. “Those conversations put me onto the idea of potentially using mushrooms as a base ingredient for a meat alternative. Mushrooms are very healthy – they’re high in iron, fibre, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, and we should be eating more of them. They’ve also got the natural umami flavours that meat has.”
Fox’s investigations led him to meet Fuller, a former fine-dining chef who had gone on to study chemical engineering and agricultural science, eventually becoming a mycologist – basically a mushroom scientist. Together with mushroom farmer McLoghlin, the three launched Fable onto the market last year.
“Our first product is an alternative to slow-cooked meat, like brisket or pulled pork,” Fox explains. “We make it using 62% shiitake mushroom. We take the shiitake mushroom and we shred it – that gives us those long, stringy, meaty fibres that you get in a slow-cooked meat. The rest of the ingredients are also all natural, plant-based ingredients.”
Spreading the good word
Fuller and McLoghlin just happened to be friends with über chef Heston Blumenthal, who tried Fable, loved it and started using it in his restaurants. The company then started to roll out into other restaurants across Australia, and also collaborated with meal kit company Marley Spoon. More recently, the product was launched in Harris Farm Markets, and in June Fable will be available in 600 Woolworths supermarkets.
“There’s not really any other plant-based meat alternative like Fable,” Fox says. “Probably the closest thing to it is jackfruit, but it doesn’t have the natural umami flavours like mushrooms – you’ve got to cover it with sauce and get the rest of the recipe just right. It’s got the right texture, but not really the taste. But with Fable you can literally eat it plain.”
The team are now working on some other mushroom-based products, including a minced beef alternative and a seafood alternative. They’re also planning a mushroom-based bacon.
Creating delicious plant-based meat alternatives that taste just as good as the real thing can have a hugely beneficial impact – not just on people’s health, but also on the environment, as well as the lives of millions of industrial livestock.
“That’s our mission – to help people reduce their meat consumption,” Fox says. “There are a lot of people who want to eat less meat. They know about the health benefits of eating less meat, the environmental benefits and the ethical benefits. But people still love the taste and texture of meat. So, if you can give them that taste and texture using mushroom-based products then it’s much easier for them to reduce their consumption and enjoy all the benefits without having to forgo the foods they enjoy.”
To find out where you can buy Fable, head to fablefood.co