Human Journey

Apparently “Real Men” Don’t Eat Veggies Either

Photo by Bruce Dale


“Where’s the beef?” you ask. The answer seems to be both on a man’s plate and in his sense of self. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that consumers link eating meat with their concept of masculinity. The researchers found that people rated meat as having a more masculine quality than vegetables. Regardless of what Popeye thinks, steak is considered more manly than spinach.

In addition, study participants considered male meat eaters to be more masculine than their vegetarian counterparts. Those studied even used more traditionally masculine language to discuss meat than veggies.

“To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food,” write the researchers. “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.”

The researchers argue that–given meat’s role as a metaphor for manliness–educational campaigns urging men to eat more soy for the health benefits won’t cut it. Instead, they suggest health advocates work with meat’s male mystique to encourage healthier eating by, for example, making soy patties that look more like beef burgers, complete with grill marks. It’s either that, or men will have to get used to being afflicted by such manly health conditions as heart attacks.

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Since 2005, Michael has been a librarian at National Geographic.

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