Men are generally more reluctant to try vegetarian products and a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says that is influenced by a strong association of meat with masculinity.
"We examined whether people in Western cultures have a metaphoric link between meat and men" write the authors. And they concluded there was a strong cultural connection to meat - especially muscle meat, like steak.
Evolutionary psychologists would likely disagree, as do unbiased dietary scientists.
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."
No loaded, emotional verbage in that quote, right? Soy is also associated with harmful hormonal changes in men, so it may be that males simply understand that is a not a good thing.
If vegetarian marketing and advocacy groups want to counteract associations like meat and masculinity, 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.
Veggie Burgers actually taste pretty good and they look a lot like hamburgers, they are just dry. The authors may not have been in a grocery store in the last 20 years so they don't know vegetable burgers already have the qualities they are recommending in 2012.
"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.
Paper: 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
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