Real men eat meat.
At least that’s the stereotype that has been passed down since our days as hunter-gatherers — when men (the hunters) would go off to kill wild animals, while women (the gatherers) would hang around collecting fruits, nuts, and berries.
“Meat seems associated with strength and power, two features generally attributed to males,” write the authors of a 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research that examined why male consumers avoid vegetarian options.
In another study, published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, researchers linked eating meat with “manhood, power, and virility” and found that men were more likely than women to “endorse pro-meat attitudes” and believed it was “human destiny to eat meat.”
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But times are changing.
A growing number of male business executives and political leaders, including former President Bill Clinton and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, are breaking gender expectations and embracing the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
It’s a trend — first pinpointed in a 2010 Businessweek article titled “The Rise of the Power Vegans” — that parallels mounting public awareness about the damaging effects of meat consumption on health and the environment. For some, the welfare of factory-farmed animals is also a concern. Conversely, “chick foods” like kale and soy products are growing in popularity.
In the United States, vegetarians are still rare: Only 5% of American adults say they are vegetarian, according to a 2012 Gallup study, and just 2% of people consider themselves vegan — people who don’t eat any ingredients that come from an animal, including eggs, milk, and honey.
While the percentage of vegetarians has remained the same over the last decade, this pattern may slowly change as tofu and salads became more fashionable among America’s male movers and shakers.