Study Reveals Meat Is Manly, Vegetables Are Not: Ron Swanson Was Right All Along

Beef ribs at Smoke City Market
Beef ribs at Smoke City Market
Anne Fishbein

Finally, the scientific reason that we associate Ron Swanson with manliness, other than the mustache and the whiskey: According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, there is a "strong connection between eating meat -- especially muscle meat, like steak -- and masculinity." Because of that connection, the researchers say, men are more wary of trying vegetarian products.

Researchers analyzed whether Western cultures associate meat with masculinity. Unsurprisingly, they found that certain foods, like meat and milk, are associated with specific genders, and that meat was rated as more masculine than vegetables. Overall, people perceive meat eaters as being more masculine than non-meat eaters. More interesting, perhaps, is that though the study was conducted in both the United States and Britain, the authors of the paper also examined 23 languages that use gendered pronouns and found that meat was most often associated with the male gender.

The authors also found that men often identify themselves in their food: "To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food. 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."

To sell vegetables to manly men, then, the authors suggest that advocates and marketers "address the metaphors that shape consumer attitudes" -- perhaps "reshaping soy burgers to make them resemble beef or giving them grill marks might help cautious men make the transition." Although we suspect that Ron Swanson would see right through the grill marks on any soy patty and go for the Turf 'n' Turf instead.

The study will be published in the October issue of the Journal for Consumer Research.

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