How did it come to be this way? In terms of nutrition, there’s little meat has to offer that other food groups don’t. The meat industry likes to tout the high iron and B12 counts in animal protein. But iron is found in plenty of vegetables and beans, and B12 is available in dairy and eggs as well as vegan foods such as alternative dairy products and nutritional yeast. And studies regularly tout the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, connecting it to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.

Yet the connection between manliness and meat-eating shows up everywhere in contemporary culture: in Carl’s Jr. commercials featuring a swimsuit-clad Paris Hilton, selling sex and burgers all in one go; in the pages of Men’s Health magazine; and in teasing depictions of Ron Swanson, that paragon of mustachioed masculinity, downing endless amounts of ribs, steak, bacon, and something called a meat tornado.


The upshot: Despite eating less meat, women still bear many of its costs—whether by braving dangerous work conditions in its packing plants, devoting money and time to buying and cooking it, or taking on caregiving duties as diet-related illnesses continue to rise. Meanwhile, women reap few of the $95 billion industry’s rewards.

30 thoughts on “How did it come to be this way? In terms of nutrition, there’s little meat has to offer that other food groups…

  1. That’s an interesting distinction. A lot of my first thoughts on “primal” are grunting and chest-thumping, and sort of definitively masculine. But there are other ways I’d use that term — I might call a particularly primal instance of sex, fucking instead of sex or especially love-making, but I wouldn’t call that manly.

  2. It probably got this way because meat is pretty tasty (to most folks, not all). The problem is that until relatively recently meat would have been a high caloric reward at the end of a physically strenuous day. But for most people in advanced areas, where meat is now an industry, it’s far easier to lay tooth on some ribs than it is to find strenuous activity. The natural process has been flipped on its head. Our natural drive for the caloric reward hasn’t yet figured out that we don’t have to do anything to earn it any more.

  3. To echo Chris McNeilly, it’s all about historical context. We forget how fortunate we are now to have a cornucopia of vegetables and fruits available year-round. It allows a 1st world citizen to have a balanced, energy-rich vegan diet not possible with solely locally-sourced, native foods.

    Meat has always been a signal of wealth and prosperity. My wife grew up in rural Mexico, and meat was a rare treat in her family. Otherwise it was corn, corn, corn, plus whatever other vegetables/fruits were in season. Those families who could afford regular meat dishes had stronger, taller and healthier kids.

    Now we have too much meat available, and too much processed sugar.

  4. FYI, there’s lots of evidence of paleolithic cultures that were essentially vegan. For a lot of cultures, for a very long time, meat was a real, really rare thing. For some parts of the world, it still is. Not too long ago, the idea that one could have, e.g., bacon any dang time you wanted would seem like total science fiction.

  5. I would imagine that for all of human and protohuman existence we’ve been predominantly sustained by plantbased foods. Until recently of course. Opportunism surely played a role too though. It makes sense that the level of meat in any early diet would have depended a lot on habitat, tools, and availability (of meat and easier alternatives). But I’m no anthropologist, I just sleep at Holiday Inn Expresses.

    So I agree with you Mark, it’s a problem. It’s just not a mystery to me why we’d want to eat some meat.