You are what you eat: Why do male consumers avoid vegetarian options?

Why are men generally more reluctant to try vegetarian products? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers are influenced by a strong association of meat with masculinity.

"We examined whether people in Western cultures have a metaphoric link between and men," write authors Paul Rozin (University of Pennsylvania), Julia M. Hormes (Louisiana State University), Myles S. (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and Brian Wansink (Cornell University). The answer, they found, was a strong connection between eating meat—especially muscle meat, like steak—and .

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.

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.

"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. "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."

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.

"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.

More information: 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. ejcr.org/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Good news for veggies: Personal values deceive taste buds

Jul 17, 2008

Many heavy meat eaters believe they eat a lot of meat because of the taste. But according to groundbreaking new research in the Journal of Consumer Research, the reason that a beef burger tastes better than a veggie burger ...

Survey: Meat eaters want no hormones

May 11, 2006

U.S. residents eat meat an average of 4.2 times a week, and most want assurances it was raised humanely and without antibiotics, a new survey found.

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PeterD
not rated yet May 16, 2012
Humans were designed to eat protein and fat. Carbs are not needed to be healthy.