Alternative meat and non-dairy items might be having a moment at the grocery store, but according to a recent study by the British University of Southampton, men are still "embarrassed" to order meatless options.
Inspired by the "major global and environmental health challenges" caused by overconsumption of animal products, Man Food Project Bristol surveyed 22 men (a very small sample size) with various relationships to meat: a few were exploring vegetarianism, others were on economically restricted diets, and the rest wanted to build muscle. In most cases, regardless of their reasons for making their food choices, the men expressed feeling embarrassment and shame around being seen ordering a steak-free salad.
Doctors Emma Roe and Paul Hurley led the study, which involved informal workshops and the preparation of meals that were vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous, allowing for open conversation. Roe explained to Munchies that one major reason for the shame men might feel about pursuing a vegetarian diet is that meat has been integral to the evolution of human civilization. "Men have been the dominant power in human civilization; thus, the association of eating meat is stronger for men than for women," she says.
The results of this study could seem surprising. There are now veggie burgers by Impossible Burger that bleed like meat-based versions, not to mention the ongoing, heated controversy about how to label and market the increasingly popular alternative milks on the market. And oat milk by Swedish company Oatly has been notoriously difficult to keep stocked in both Europe and the U.S. due to high demand.
But despite all these trendy innovations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 2018 will be a record year for meat consumption in the U.S. — the first since 2004 — and dairy is also seeing higher-than-usual sales. "The average consumer will eat 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry this year," reports the Seattle Times.
It turns out male anxiety is great for the meat business.