Study finds men eat meat more often than women, especially in gender-equal, developed countries

In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers examined whether sex-related differences are universal, influenced by cultural norms, related to opportunities to express certain behaviors, and weaker or stronger among nations with more development and less gender inequality.

Study: Paradoxical gender effects in meat consumption across cultures. Image Credit: hedgehog94/Shutterstock.com
Study: Paradoxical gender effects in meat consumption across cultures. Image Credit: hedgehog94/Shutterstock.com

Background

Meat consumption is greater among men in North America and Europe, although the causes for this difference are unknown. Understanding the gender difference might help us better understand cultural relationships. 

Cross-cultural inequalities in meat consumption may highlight the role of culture in gender differences and push the limits of paradoxical gender effects. Universal nutritional demands are associated with biological sex variations, and evolutionary social norms that reward skilled hunters may impact meat's value. Comparing meat consumption rates across cultures should be less prone to reference group bias.

About the study

In the present study, researchers investigated gender variations in average consumption frequency across civilizations. They specifically examined whether gender inequalities among countries would be the same, smaller in nations with more gender equality and human development, or stronger.

The research recruited 20,802 individuals from 23 nations across four continents in 2021. They excluded individuals who provided inaccurate responses to validity tests, left the survey incomplete, or gave absurd responses, and those who did not reveal their gender identity as female or male. The research had respondents rate their food intake frequency on a scale of 1.0 to 11, and researchers computed the land animal-based food consumption by average scores for several categories such as beef/cow, pork/pig, and fowl such as chicken.

The researchers used Human Development Index (HDI) scores to rate countries based on their progress in health, education, and living standards. Information was gathered manually from the United Nations Development Programme's website in January 2023. The researchers utilized the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) to compare country gender equality levels based on economic opportunity and participation, educational achievement, political empowerment, and health. They collected 2021 data from the World Economic Forum's 2021 Global Gender Gap Report.

Using a multilevel method, the researchers evaluated the variation in meat intake frequency between nations. They developed an intercept-only statistical model to determine the requirements and rationale for this approach. The researchers then used first-level predictors such as linear age, quadratic age, and binary gender for random intercept modeling.

They then evaluated a random coefficients model, which included random coefficients for gender, age, and the quadratic factor. Finally, they included gender equality and development indices as effect moderators, developing an intercepts-and-slopes-as-outcome model with cross-level interactions.

Results

Across all countries, except India, Indonesia, and China, men ate more meat than women. This discrepancy, however, grew dramatically in nations with higher levels of gender equality and human development. Significant positive impact size d values ranged between 0.2 for Malaysia and 0.6 for Germany.

The random intercept model explained more variation (11%) than the intercept-only statistical model. The model using random coefficients for age, sex, and quadratic age terms had model convergence difficulties, indicating that age effect slopes were consistent across nations. However, modeling with only gender slopes explained more variation than random intercept modeling.

Models incorporating level 2.0 variables for biological sex-based equality, human development, and cross interactions between development, gender, and gender-based equality could explain more variation than the nested random coefficient model.

According to parameter estimates, males consume more meat than women, and meat consumption falls with advancing age but was highest among young and middle-aged individuals. Cross interactions revealed that gender inequalities in meat intake are higher in nations with more development and lower gender inequality, supporting the gender paradoxical hypothesis.

Conclusions

The study finds that males consume more meat than women in developed nations with more gender equality, with the paradoxical gender impact being higher in these nations. Gender disparities were not identified in India, Indonesia, or China, indicating potential impacts of cultural and environmental variables.

Economic factors explain the influence of human development since meat production costs are higher than plant-origin food production. Nations with more resources provide more options for individuals to buy and eat beef. The findings build on comparable studies with psychological traits and help rule out reference group effects as a possible reason.

Journal reference:
Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Written by

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia is an oral and maxillofacial physician and radiologist based in Pune, India. Her academic background is in Oral Medicine and Radiology. She has extensive experience in research and evidence-based clinical-radiological diagnosis and management of oral lesions and conditions and associated maxillofacial disorders.

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