"Women, do the dishes. Men, eat more meat." This was a common phrase in my family's household when it was time to clean up and yet there were still piles of leftovers after a holiday dinner. Men and meat have long been coupled terms. Some men even exaggerate that they would like to renounce their omnivorous design and go straight-up carnivore.
So, researchers set out to test whether men actually preferred red meat or if they more simply held a subconscious "macho" status that compelled them to eat steaks and hamburgers over salads with salmon.
Live Science reports that the researchers wrote, "To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American food." The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
As part of the research, nearly 4,000 university students were asked to rate 23 foods as masculine or feminine on a scale from 0 to 10. The most masculine foods, Life Science notes, were medium-rare steak, hamburger, well-done steak, beef chili and chicken. The top feminine foods it reports were chocolate, peach, chicken salad, sushi and chicken.
Here's more from Live Science on the study:
If meat represents masculinity, it would seem men would be more likely than women to prefer meat to other foods — a means of reinforcing gender. To test this idea, the researchers analyzed data of more than 2,000 university students who indicated how much they liked or disliked various foods. Male students were significantly more likely than female students to like beef, meat and orange juice; and the women were significantly more likely than guys to like salad and vegetables.
This "masculine meat" phenomenon seems to hold in other countries as well. In one study of 23 languages with gendered pronouns, the researchers found "that the vast majority of these gendered words and these languages associate meat with the masculine pronoun," [Brian Wansink] from Cornell University told LiveScience.
With this in mind, ABC News points out the increasing evidence linking red meat consumption to heart disease and other health issues:
One study found that eating a single serving of red meat every day was linked to an increased risk of early death.
Dr. Ulka Agarwal, chief medical officer for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a non-profit group that promotes preventive medicine, animal rights and plant-based diets, said the “meat is macho, veggies are lame” mindset is really an outdated way of thinking about eating.
“The face of plant-based diets is changing as they become more mainstream,” Agarwal said. “It’s not just hippies, but also professional athletes who are following plant-based diets now.”
So how do you get men to eat more vegetables? Wansink said make it look more like meat. This can be as simple as putting grill marks on a veggie burger.