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.