Consumers are influenced by a strong association of meat with masculinity, according to a new study published online March 6, 2012 in the Journal of Consumer Research. The study looked for the reasons why men are generally more reluctant to try vegetarian products that seem to attract more women and a few vegetarian or vegan men.
Scientists asked why vegetarianism is viewed as more lady-like and feminine and by contrast, meat eating by males is seen as masculine, according to the new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Check out the news release, "You are what you eat: Why do male consumers avoid vegetarian options?" based on the study, from the University of Chicago Press Journals. Also see the article, Men Skip Their 5-A-Days and Opt for Meat Because They Find Vegetables Unmanly.
Other articles have appeared in major publications such as Meat, morals, and masculinity, Real men must eat meat say women as they turn their noses up at vegetarians and People Think of Vegetarians as Less Manly. "We examined whether people in Western cultures have a metaphoric link between meat and men," write authors Paul Rozin (University of Pennsylvania), Julia M. Hormes (Louisiana State University), Myles S. Faith (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and Brian Wansink (Cornell University), according to the news release.
The answer, they found, was a strong connection between eating meat—especially muscle meat, like steak—and masculinity. Meat is associated more with masculinity because of the strength, bravery, hunting in groups, and teamwork required to bring down a beast for food.
Researchers find strong connection between meat eating and masculinity
In a number of experiments that looked at metaphors and certain foods, like meat and milk, the authors found that people rated meat as more masculine than vegetables. They also found that meat generated more masculine words when people discussed it, and that people viewed male meat eaters as being more masculine than non-meat eaters.
It's not just about eating meat. It's also about an ancestral diet of hunting meat and the bravery and brute strength once required to bring down a mammoth for the village during the act of finding, hunting, and butchering meat.
In most countries where animals are slaughtered, it's the men who kill the animal and butcher it and the women who cook the meal, gather the vegetarian grain, and bake the bread. In some cultures, men do the outside grilling of meat in the yard, especially when feeding a large group of people at a gathering. In the past and up to the present most chefs specializing in preparing and processing meat such as charcuterie chefs are male.
Meat related to the male gender in many languages
Most of the studies took place in the United States and Britain, but the authors also analyzed 23 languages that use gendered pronouns. They discovered that across most languages, meat was related to the male gender. Men prepared whole animals for feasts such as on holidays calling for a whole lamb or pig to be sacrificed and cooked in a pit or on a grill.
Even in photography beefcake refers to magazine photos of male models and cheesecake to women, even though cheese is ovo-lacto vegetarian and not vegan, even though some women are referred to with the name of a tree fruit such as a peach or the apple of someone's eye.
"To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food," the authors write, according to the news release. "Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy."
In the media, few men are depicted eating tofu or raw vegan salads and casseroles. In the 1970s there was a movement called real men don't eat quiche, although in some cultures cheesemaking is a male occupation. Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, by American Bruce Feirstein, is a bestselling tongue-in-cheek book satirizing stereotypes of masculinity, published in 1982. Check out the August 2, 1982 People magazine article, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche? So Says Bruce Feirstein, a Writer With—Well—Crust," by Kathy Mackay.
Why is vegetarian associated with weakness instead of morality toward living creatures?
If marketers or health advocates want to counteract such powerful associations, they need to address the metaphors that shape consumer attitudes, the authors explain. For example, an education campaign that urges people to eat more soy or vegetables would be a tough sell, but reshaping soy burgers to make them resemble beef or giving them grill marks might help cautious men make the transition, the researchers report.
"In marketing, understanding the metaphor a consumer might have for a brand could move the art of positioning toward more of a science," the authors conclude, according to the news release. Interestingly, the various cable and satellite TV travel shows have gravitated to shows where the stars are chefs that eat lots of red meat and seafood but few vegetables unless they are side dishes.
You have TV travel shows such as "Man versus Food," where portion sizes of meat are huge. You also have "Bizarre Foods," where the host eats foods such as insects, red meat, the sex organs of edible animals, raw seafood, and various organ meats, even blood, when traveling to areas where bovine blood is consumed as a food.
The stars of these travel for food demonstration shows usually are former chefs who meet people around the globe who either sell food, are chefs, or who invite these males to family homes where most of the hosts eat meat or seafood. Few vegetables are mentioned other than what is served in soups and as side dishes accompanying the main entree.
Check out the new study by Paul Rozin, Julia M. Hormes, Myles S. Faith, and Brian Wansink. "Is Meat Male? A Quantitative Multi-Method Framework to Establish Metaphoric Relationships."
Journal of Consumer Research: October 2012. Yes that's October 2012 in five months from now for the print edition. The online preview edition is up there since March 6, 2012. For more information, visit the Journal of Consumer Research.
See, October 2012 Forthcoming Articles -- Journal of Consumer Research. The article preview is online, "Is Meat Male? A Quantitative Multi-Method Framework to Establish Metaphoric Relationships." Authors are: Paul Rozin, Julia M. Hormes, Myles S. Faith, Brian Wansink. Check out the (Press Release) or the (References). (Published online Mar 6, 2012).