Is it hard for men who consider themselves “masculine” to eat meat? Researchers at the Australian National University conducted a large survey to learn how adherence to typical gender roles affects perceptions around meat eating.
Published in Journal sexual rolesThe study involved 4,897 Australians who were given online surveys that examined their perceptions of eating meat compared to their self-rated gender characteristics – that is, how strongly people identified with traditional male and female gender roles.
The results? Men who identify as more masculine are less likely to reduce meat consumption or consider veganism. These participants were more likely to think of meat as “normal.”
Interestingly, participants with the most gender-normative identities, regardless of their gender, viewed meat as natural, necessary, and beautiful — identifying a possible interrelationship between traditional gender roles and adherence to conventional eating habits.
Although additional research is needed, the study authors suggest that this link between gender characteristics and perceptions of meat can be used for campaigns around meat reduction and marketing strategies of alternative protein companies.
Is it manly to eat meat?
Traditional gender roles often dictate that men should eat meat, while women should eat more plant-based foods. This reinforces the idea that eating meat is a masculine trait.
However, it is important to note that these associations between meat eating and masculinity are cultural and historical constructions and do not necessarily reflect objective reality. In modern times, the link between meat consumption and masculinity is being challenged by changing attitudes towards health, environmental sustainability and animal welfare.
And it’s been catalyzed by more research that has emerged in recent years about the link between meat consumption and disease, giving men an opportunity to re-examine their relationship with animal products.
Noah Praamsma, MS, RDN, nutrition education coordinator for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — a group of 17,000 medical professionals — explains that eating meat may not be masculine.
“Many men believe they need meat to build muscle and achieve a healthy lifestyle,” Praamsma told VegNews, “These are cultural beliefs, and science doesn’t support them. Protein needs, even for very active men (and women), can easily be fulfilled through a well-planned diet that relies on plant foods. These beliefs have negative consequences even for men.”
“Statistically, we don’t live as long as women, probably because of the high meat consumption,” Promsma said.
A study published last year in the Medical Journal BMJ found that men who consumed high rates of highly processed foods had a 29 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer — the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States — than men who ate very little. The study did not find the same association in women.
“There is nothing inherently masculine about meat, and if anything, the opposite is true,” Prasma says. Men are more likely than women to develop cardiovascular disease, which is linked to meat consumption.”
“Living in fear of a chronic disease or dying from one is not manly,” he says. “These include erectile dysfunction, with unhealthy diets linked to high meat consumption.”
Why being a vegetarian is manly
Conversely, a plant-based diet has been linked to helping men achieve optimal health. A 2022 study conducted by researchers at Kyung Hee University in South Korea on a population of 79,952 American men revealed that those who consumed the highest daily average amount of healthy plant-based foods had a 22 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. Consume minimal amounts of healthy plant-based foods.
New research supports this conclusion, including one published in March in the journal Scientific Reports Urology. Here, the systematic review found that a plant-forward diet can improve men’s health to prevent and manage conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer.
And one study found that consuming a plant-based diet slowed the progression of prostate cancer by 52 percent in men who had already developed the disease. The researchers also found that participants whose diets were highest in plants had a 53 percent lower risk of recurrence than those who ate the least amount of plant foods.
“A plant-based diet, on the other hand, is very beneficial to our health as men,” Prasma says “Fiber found in vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits reduces a man’s risk of heart disease, facilitating blood flow to all organs essential for health and virility.”
“High-quality plant protein like what we get in lemons helps us build strong bodies,” he says. “Eating whole, colorful foods made from plants lowers our risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity.”
Choosing to follow a plan-based diet is a manly thing to do, says Promsma, in light of the growing body of research on its protective benefits for men’s health. Skipping meat also doesn’t sacrifice muscle-building as numerous studies have shown that non-animal protein sources can provide equal results.
“True masculinity means strength and bravery,” he says. “This includes rebelling against the cultural pressure that men feel to eat meat even though it’s bad for our health.”