Study: Men Eat More Meat Than Women in Countries With Greater Gender Equality

Posted on July 10, 2024

Researchers at the University of Zurich have examined the meat consumption patterns of over 20,000 people from 23 countries to determine whether there is a connection between meat consumption and gender equality.

The results indicate that people in wealthier countries eat more meat than those in developing countries, and men eat more meat than women. But somewhat surprisingly, gender differences in meat consumption are greater in countries with higher levels of gender equality and social and economic development. The researchers theorize that this is because people in these countries have more opportunities to express their food preferences.

Of the 23 countries studied, there were only three where men did not eat more meat than women — China, India, and Indonesia. The largest gender differences were found in Germany, Argentina, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

The authors suggest that these findings could inform strategies for promoting the consumption of plant-based and cultivated meat. For example, demand-side strategies such as improved marketing may be effective in developed countries, where consumers have considerable freedom to choose what they eat. In countries with lower levels of development, it may be more effective to provide companies with incentives to produce meat alternatives.

Meat and masculinity

In many cultures, there is a perceived association between meat and masculinity, which may partially explain why men are less likely to moderate their meat consumption. Research published last year by The Vegan Society found that men are reluctant to give up meat due to social stigma and pressure to conform to masculine expectations. Additionally, many men have misconceptions about nutrition, believing that meat is necessary for strength and health.

The research also explains that men tend to eat meat as a form of “performative masculinity”. Giving up meat can be seen as a gender role violation, resulting in harsh treatment from meat-eaters. Furthermore, men are more likely than women to say that eating meat is natural, or to have hierarchical attitudes towards non-human animals.

“The differences in meat consumption between men and women tended to be greater in countries with higher levels of gender equality and social and economic development,” said Christopher Hopwood, lead author of the University of Zurich study. “Higher levels of gender equality and development may give women greater freedom to choose to eat meat less often and may also allow men to purchase and eat meat more often.”

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