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

May 16, 2012

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.

Explore further: Denying mental qualities to animals in order to eat them

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/

Related Stories

Denying mental qualities to animals in order to eat them

November 25, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- New research by Dr Brock Bastian from UQ's School of Psychology highlights the psychological processes that people engage in to reduce their discomfort over eating meat.

Incidences and severity of prostate cancer correlated with meat consumption: study

November 23, 2011
Increased consumption of ground beef or processed meat is positively associated with aggressive prostate cancer, according to a study published Nov. 23 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Diet high in vegetables and fruit associated with less weight gain in African-American women

May 20, 2011
Investigators from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University have reported that African American women who consumed a diet high in vegetables and fruit gained less weight over a 14-year period than those who consumed ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

1 comment

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.