Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the research examined a metaphorical, symbolic link between meat and masculinity among consumers in the United States and Great Britain, and found that study participants in both countries generally rated meats as more masculine than other foods, while foods such as chocolate, sushi, chicken salad and peaches were considered more feminine. In order of perceived masculinity, medium-rare steak, hamburger, well-done steak, beef chili and chicken were rated as the most masculine foods by study participants.
“To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American food,” the authors wrote. “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 suggested that for marketers, dietitians and public health advocates who are seeking to increase men’s consumption of vegetables and reduce meat intake, men’s attitudes should be taken into account – perhaps by giving soy burgers grill marks or otherwise presenting plant-based foods to look more like beef.
“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 wrote.
The research, titled “Is Meat Male? A Quantitative Multimethod Framework to Establish Metaphoric Relationships”, is due to appear in the October 2012 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research and is available online ahead of print via this link.