That's the other major model to use: a dedicated test database. I recall that's what Ruby on Rails sets up default. I have to confess to not trying that approach in earnest because of a perception that it would be too difficult to get started with and maintain as the "fixture" data and data model change over time.
I agree that it would certainly have the benefit of allowing you to (more) safely exercise the production code-line.
Are they any specific tools you are using to make this approach easier?