Humans have long associated eating meat with affluence. Even today, people with lower social status tend to desire meat more than people who are better off as a result of this old attitude. This, according to a new study from Dr. Eugene Chan and Dr. Natalina Zlatevska, could be a significant concern for advertisers, doctors, and food stores.
The study, published in the appropriately titled journal Appetite, suggests that we still associate meat with status and that the lower you are on the social scale, the more likely you are to ask for the steak than the veggie burger.
How did they prove this?
Over the course of several tests, the researchers found that the desire for meat was connected to a person’s preserved status and not the item in question, nutritional value of the food, or the how hungry the test subject was at that moment.
One test experiment involved showing subjects the packaging of the “beast burger,” which was described as having either a meat or vegetable patty and asking them how much they wanted to eat it. As expected, the subjects who ranked lower on the social scale had a much higher desire for the meat-based burger than the vegetable one despite the similar packaging and nutritional information.
In every case, the worse off a person claimed to be the more likely they were to favor the meat-based dish. Individuals who supposed themselves higher on the social ladder were nearly as likely to choose the vegetable item as the meat one.
Why do we do this? Why do some people really want meat dishes?
Dr. Zlatevska explained:
“There is a symbolic association between eating meat and strength, power and masculinity. It is traditionally a high-status food, brought out for guests or as the centerpiece of festive occasions, so we wanted to better understand this link to status.”
Dr. Chan added:
“Our research reveals that while eating meat appears to confer feelings of power and status, this may have health implications for those who see themselves as lower on the socio-economic ladder.”
Since the study took care to control for factors such as the subject’s current mood or the food’s nutritional value, the researchers conclude that “the results suggest a…
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