Meat Me Halfway: Sydney Meat-Loving Men’s Restaurant Experience with Alternative Plant-Based Proteins
2. Psychological Reactance, Impression Management and Social Marketing
4. Description of the Interview Sample
5. Results and Discussion
5.1. Experience in a Vegan Restaurant
You don’t need to be a vegan to go and try a veggie burger. I am not a vegan, but everyone is talking about it (the burger). I am not even kidding, they are so popular. When we went there, ….there were so many people. I was happy to line up with them. It was real fun to chat with the others while meekly waiting for my turn to come. There was… kind of fun atmosphere for everyone. I had the feeling that the people waiting around somehow united with me. It’s incredible how you could make laugh with other people in the queue.(Male, 18 years old, daily meat-eater)
A friend of mine told me about the new vegan burger place near his apartment in Manly. He pursued me…24/7 claiming the burgers are bloody good, and I decided to check it out with my wife. (Interviewer: What was your experience?) I wanted to go for quite a while as my wife is a vegan and I wanted to make her a surprise. Also, lately, I was constantly thinking of the environmental impact of meat consumption my wife was talking about all the time and what she said about meat killing….aaah-mmm morally unjustifiable meat production. Here I am lured by her propaganda. I think we made the most of it thanks to my Manly friend.(Male, 34 years old, daily meat-eater)
I didn’t know these burgers are becoming too trendy among my friends. We used to go out and eat steaks and burgers in pubs and steakhouses, but instead, now we are mingling with the veggie burger eaters. Strange world! (Interviewer: Do you like it?) Not much but this is not the point. It opens new dimensions of experiences especially in the COVID-19 setting. You have to go somewhere. You have to do something new…. Otherwise, it’s boring.(Male, 29 years old, eats meat 4–5 times per week)
I felt surprisingly satisfying with the taste of the burger, I believe because of the company of my girl and the atmosphere. You know when love is in the air you don’t think too much what you are digesting.(Male, 26 years old, daily meat eater)
My girlfriend took me to a newly opened veggie burgers’ place in Glebe. It wasn’t too bad, I mean the burger but if I had another option on offer, I would choose differently. I just stuck to what she wanted me to eat.(Male, 32 years old, eats meat 4–5 times per week)
When you want to make your girl happy, you just do whatever it takes to make her happy and this included eating plant-based burgers. (Interviewer: Is she an influencer for the food you eat?) Not really. We eat lots of meat and she cooks some of it when around. But I try to please her when I can.(Male, 19 years old, daily meat eater)
Vegan meal is a totally irritating experience, but when you love someone, you don’t have much choice, but just to be there for her. (Interviewer: Was it that difficult for you?) It was not difficult to accompany her at all, but then when I had to eat the burger I ordered, I experienced a certain difficulty. Why? It didn’t have that meaty consistency I’m used to eating. It was very soft, somehow it didn’t smell very good to impress my taste. (Interviewer: Did you share what you just described about your meal with her?) No way. She was going to be so much upset and unhappy…There is no way she could hear it. (Interviewer: Do you think this is a good thing to do, especially if you love her?) Not really good, but it’s saving the family peace. It’s more important than to admit next to her how much I hated this burger.(Male, 40 years old, daily meat eater)
At the beginning I was a bit afraid to say that everything on the menu was vegan/vegetarian, but then something clicked, and I haven’t put too many thoughts on the meal, but on the atmosphere and the woman next to me. This makes me still feel a real macho man despite the plant burger I needed to eat.(Male, 27 years old, daily meat-eater)
I felt kind of trapped when at the veggie burger place. My girl enjoyed the many “tasty” options, and I didn’t want to make her unhappy, but actually I felt miserable and even I did not enjoy my burger. There wasn’t any meat in it to enjoy.(Male, 32 years old, daily meat eater)
5.2. It’s All about Masculinity
A burger, even plant-based, is simply a burger. I don’t think it is a big deal to consume it here and there. The problem arises after that. (Interviewer: Why? What do you mean by “the problem”?) Because I prefer real meat.(Male, 37 years old, daily meat eater)
I did it only because my girlfriend asked me to do this for her. Male needs to be strong and play by the rules to make their girl happy. When she is happy, I am happy. This is how things work… (Interviewer: Does this include going against what you consider masculine traits?) To some extent yes, but I still have to guard what she is saying in front of my male friends. I think she is smart enough and understands the implications of this. We do have a vegan friend, and everybody is constantly fooling him and it’s very annoying to think that I can get in his place with my vegetarian burger.(Male, 19 years old, daily meat eater)
My partner is trying very hard to sway a carnivore like me and I can tell you that some of the attempts are quite spot on, like with the vegan burger I ate the other week. It was juicier, less bleeding than contemporary meat, but in her company, I am easy to get swayed.(Male, 33 years old, daily meat eater)
You know, we took a selfie with my girlfriend and she shared it without having my consent to share it, on Instagram. Friends nowadays can trace you everywhere. I don’t want to end up with my friends laughing at me over a plant-based burger. (Interviewer: Why is so important what other people, other men think of you?) You are asking me why it matters?! You know, basically it matters a lot and it’s part of life, of our lives. People are always going to laugh at you, judge you and the best you can do is to make your actions, such as going to the vegan restaurant, invisible to the others. This way you could at least relax and no bother to search for meaningful explanations.(Male, 22 years old, daily meat-eater)
Everyone I know is a meat eater. For me, it is awkward to be seen as a non-meat eater as I am ruing my reputation as a man. (Interviewer: How does this make you feel?) Uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable and even detrimental for me as a man.(Male, 29 years old, daily meat-eater)
My girlfriend is eating veggie burgers for compassionate reasons around animal welfare. My consumption practices are not matching with hers as I think animals are our source of food.(Male, 37 years old, daily meat-eater)
I felt quite guilty when opting for plant-based burgers. (Interviewer: Why was that?) Because I was feeling I am sacrificing my manhood, my masculinity. It’s even worse when you are kind of forced to do it as everyone around is doing it. There is no other option.(Male, 38 years old, daily meat-eater)
Plant-based burgers are not the right option for me. It’s destroying my manly image.(Male, 39 years old, daily meat-eater)
I was under constant stress how to get out of the situation, especially if some acquaintance of mine accidentally shows up. And this is entirely possible, because now everyone is crazy and wants to try vegetarian burgers.(Male, 38 years old, daily meat-eater)
It’s not a quality thing to eat these plant-based burgers. Such food effeminates you, you could end up growing some soya enhanced breast like the same thing you get when you eat chicken fed with hormones.(Male 37 years old, daily meat eater)
5.3. Plant-Based Alternatives
I am pretty much a carnivore, but I have gladly given one of the plant-burger a go.(Male, 35 years old, daily meat eater)
I think consuming meat analogues in the form of burgers is fine here and there as long as it doesn’t screw my reputation.(Male, 24 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
Many people are eating these analogues as part of their religious practices, like India, Bangladesh and other countries or just to merge with the surroundings and the people around them.(Male, 33 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
Religious, animal welfare…people are having heaps of excuses for not consuming one thing or another. Many people are following them to justify their own vegetarian consumption.(Male, 22 years old, daily meat-eater)
Once I bought some, I think Danish burgers, by mistake. I didn’t know there are selling fake meat next to real meat.(Male, 21 years old, daily meat-eater)
My wife is fanatic about new food and always wants to try things. There were so many experiments with some plant-based options I never understood from where she was bringing them home. (Interviewer: How successful were the plant-based alternatives at home?) Sometimes you can consume it. Most of the time you prefer to put it in the garbage bin. Actually, the majority of the time if you ask me. But my wife was enjoying it.(Male, 39 years old, daily meat-eater)
I don’t think there is some sort of belief and structure that guide my wife’s daily eating decisions. Even she eats less meat, she continues eating meat because it is a good source of iron she is lacking. Also, vitamins, minerals, B12, zinc, everything precious and much needed for our body to function is in meat. The desire to visit vegan restaurants in my opinion is not because she is that much in love with the veggies, but purely trend-based. She likes these kinds of things and obviously she guides my dietary practices and choices too, ha-ha-ha.(Male, 40 years old, daily meat-eater)
I believe there are not many plant-based products in Australia. I’ve heard about some American brands “Beyond” and “Impossible”, but not other Aussie brands. Maybe Sanitarium and Nestle do something. I am sure I saw something there…but apart from these I don’t know others.(Male, 33 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
Till recently I didn’t know these things existed. I thought they have them only at restaurants. Maybe if you buy them and don’t know how to cook it, you may not have a good experience with it. A friend of mine bought some plant-based mince and tried to use it for the Bolognese sauce. She said that the final result was absolutely yuck…inedible. Maybe we will need some practice to familiarise ourselves with these products.(Male, 26 years old, daily meat-eater)
I never buy any of these animal-free products. I am not familiar with them. I heard they sell them in Coles and Woolies [major Australian supermarket chains], but I never paid any attention to them.(Male, 34 years old, daily meat-eater)
Not sure why we need these alternatives when there are varieties of already existing cuts of meat, salami, sausages, bacon, all good stuff we all enjoy on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel suppressed by their existence and the desire of my girlfriend to consume plant-based imitations, it’s honestly giving me a headache.(Male, 25 years old, daily meat-eater)
5.4. Taste Experience
It’s like consuming fried or minced bun between buns. (Interviewer: Interesting description. Why do you think that?) Tasteless for me … not even close to real meat. You could have it once but that’s it … You can’t repeat it again. It’s a waste of time.(Male, 32 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
I can’t say they (plant-based burgers) were anything special. Rather a little greasy and not meaty.(Male, 38 years old, daily meat eater)
I was sceptic about plant-based burgers as everywhere they are advertised with the promises of the same taste as meat, same appearance as meat etc. At the end it is unclear whether I was going to have the same eating experience as before when I was chewing on a real steak.(Male, 39 years old, daily meat eater)
Bleeds, taste, maybe will be able to avoid some food worries around contracting diseases, but it still needs a big room for improvement.(Male, 33 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
5.5. Future of This Trend
I was glad I had the chance to try the plant-based burger as I have heard so many things about it and was wondering whether I will like it or not. (Interviewer: How was it?) I can’t say I was too impressed; it was a bit greasy for my taste, but I tried it and I kind of ticked the box.(Male, 30 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
Now they are popular as they are something pretty new. I was trying of pure curiosity. I don’t think we will be eating these (plant-based) and abandon our meat, but I was just curious to try and reassure myself that this is the case.(Male, 29 years old, eats meat 4–5 times per week)
I can say that plant-based meat is truly having its moment, right now, but not forever. It’s despite the livestock industry induced problems with factory farming, antibiotic resistance and environmental problems. Plant-based is having a momentum, so do their producers…. I don’t think that it will replace consumers’ meat purchases.(Male, 25 years old, daily meat-eater)
I was listening to a podcast last week and they were discussing the projections of plant-based alternatives to go to the roof. Consumers’ demand and sentiments linked to animal welfare, health and the environment were pointed to as reasons for the growing trend, but these are all gimmicks. Everyone is keen to try as it’s something new because people are curious to know what is out there, but people will be quickly fed up with it…(Male, 18 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
5.5.2. Concerns about Unhealthiness
Why should we eat plant-based meat if we have real meat? Plant-based are unhealthy. They contain high sodium contents and saturated fat, basically equivalent fat and caloric contents to meat. Maybe it is far less saturated fat than animal meat on average, but it is still saturated fat. If you reduce your meat intake, you will have to digest less saturated fat than you will with plant-based alternatives. I don’t think the whole madness with the plant-based is for real.(Male, 20 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
Plant-based is nothing better for our health compared to meat. They are ultra-processed imitations, and I think no matter how hard the industry tries to replicate the taste and the cooking, sizzling and whatever experience of meat, I am not convinced that I want to consume it without a clear indication of plant-based analogues’ health benefits (Interviewer: If you are given this reassurance are you going to react differently?) Mmmm, honestly, I am not sure. Even if they want to make them sound healthier, they can’t. I read they are too processed… It’s difficult to decide. I am more inclining toward not eating them.(Male, 21 years old, daily meat-eater)
The ways the industry uses soybeans, peas and wheat to create ingredients for plant-based alternatives are not good as the product is highly processed. Then we are offered to eat it without being aware of the price.(Male, 24 years old, daily meat-eater)
Eating vegetables is good for you but being plant-based does not automatically makes it healthy. Plant-based meats are just using ingredients that come from plants, and they are the food chemist pride. We don’t know what people like about the taste of meat. Believe it or not, even considered not so healthy to eat, meat is meat, and it will remain the preferred food for the majority of people in Australia.(Male, 22 years old, daily meat-eater)
These products are marketed as containing protein from plants and as long as I am aware, they are formulated to provide an option for non-meat consumers. Not me by the way, as I love eating meat. But made from plants does not necessarily mean they are providing a healthy protein. Who knows what is in there? …. Also, by default, plants contain less protein than real meat. (Interviewer: Do you think plant-based alternatives have a chance with meat-eaters like you?) Ha-ha-ha. Maybe if they make it similar to at least processed meat like salami, sausages, plant-based options will have the best chances to replace meat. But they …I mean the producers, the industry is not yet there.(Male, 37 years old, daily meat-eater)
5.5.3. Lack of Transparency
You know, producers need to let us know what they are putting into these plant-based options. There is not much transparency about the hidden ingredients. I know they are including the general stuff in the label, but there are many small doses of chemicals that are not disclosed. I read about this recently in one news article. It’s quite disturbing. When people find out what is in it, this will be the end of it.(Male, 19 years old, daily meat eater)
Not sure if they use GMOs and other ingredients that are against my health-conscious lifestyle. We need to know and this needs to be visibly included in the labels.(Male, 26 years old, consumes meat 4–5 times per week)
6. Meet Me Halfway: Social Marketing Implications
- Women have a very important role to play in any food transitions, not only as mothers but also as partners to the men who want to maintain good relationships. Eating is a daily necessity and the power of women, be it subtle or by expressing explicit preferences, is important.
- The link between meat and masculinity is mainly targeted at other men rather than women. Men should think about how their dietary choices are seen by women and about the overall food-related perceptions that exist in society. Industry marketing has contributed much to creating messages linking meat and machoness. Social marketing needs to break these mental connections and create images that are better suited for our time of an environment and climate emergency. Manliness has also a caring side and this should be emphasised in relation to climate change and environmental deterioration.
- It is important to stop labelling people as “vegan”, “flexitarian” or “meat-eaters” as this causes divisions and disagreements among all stakeholders in this complex problem area. Plant-based meat alternatives should aim to become just another, better food option for people, particularly in western countries.
- By being transparent and delivering genuinely healthier options, the new food industry can gain credibility and broader acceptance. Its claims, including through marketing, will be monitored closely by Generation Z, Millennials and any other people who are hesitant to change their diets.
7. Contributions of the Study
- Plant-based foods, including the veggie burger, need to be communicated as options which empower consumer choices with supporting evidence that they are nutritionally healthier and ecologically better – this is likely to suppress reactance towards them;
- From food being at the core of the male identity as represented by meat-based options, it needs to become the centre of care about the future – masculinity needs to be communicated as being defined not by what men eat but what men do about other people and the planet.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|1||I understand you visited a vegan restaurant in Sydney. Where was that?|
|2||Why did you visit the vegan restaurant? Whom did you visit with?|
|3||Did you eat a new plant-based alternative to animal-sourced product, such as a plant-based burger?|
|4||Describe your overall experience at the vegan restaurant.|
|5||What did you think about yourself during the visit to the vegan restaurant?|
|6||Did you tell anybody else (e.g., friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbours or other people) about your experience at the vegan restaurant and why?|
|N||Age [years]||Generation||Meat Consumption||Employment||Education|
|1||18||Gen Z||Daily||University Student||High School|
|2||18||Gen Z||4–5 times per week||University Student||High School|
|3||19||Gen Z||Daily||Part time||High School|
|4||19||Gen Z||Daily||University Student||Bachelor|
|5||20||Gen Z||Daily||Full time||Bachelor|
|6||20||Gen Z||4–5 times per week||University Student||Bachelor|
|7||21||Gen Z||Daily||Part time||Bachelor|
|8||21||Gen Z||4–5 times per week||University Student||High School|
|9||22||Gen Z||Daily||University Student||Bachelor|
|10||22||Gen Z||Daily||Full time||Bachelor|
|11||23||Gen Z||Daily||Part time||Master|
|12||23||Gen Z||4–5 times per week||Part time||Bachelor|
|13||24||Gen Z||4–5 times per week||Full time||Master|
|14||24||Gen Z||Daily||Part time||Bachelor|
|15||25||Gen Z||Daily||Full time||Bachelor|
|16||25||Gen Z||Daily||Full time||Master|
|17||26||Gen Z||4–5 times per week||Part time||Bachelor|
|18||26||Gen Z||Daily||Full time||Bachelor|
|19||27||Millennials||Daily||Full time||High School|
|20||29||Millennials||4–5 times per week||Full time||Bachelor|
|22||30||Millennials||4–5 times per week||Part time||Master|
|25||33||Millennials||4–5 times per week||Full time||High School|
|29||36||Millennials||4–5 times per week||Full time||Master|
|30||36||Millennials||4–5 times per week||Full time||Master|
|32||38||Millennials||4–5 times per week||Full time||High School|
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Bogueva, D.; Marinova, D.; Bryant, C. Meat Me Halfway: Sydney Meat-Loving Men’s Restaurant Experience with Alternative Plant-Based Proteins. Sustainability 2022, 14, 1290. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031290
Bogueva D, Marinova D, Bryant C. Meat Me Halfway: Sydney Meat-Loving Men’s Restaurant Experience with Alternative Plant-Based Proteins. Sustainability. 2022; 14(3):1290. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031290Chicago/Turabian Style
Bogueva, Diana, Dora Marinova, and Christopher Bryant. 2022. "Meat Me Halfway: Sydney Meat-Loving Men’s Restaurant Experience with Alternative Plant-Based Proteins" Sustainability 14, no. 3: 1290. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031290