Men …  They’re masters of the grill. And, let’s face it, plenty of men have a bit of a caveman mentality when it comes to what they eat.

Seriously, how many men do you know who’s eyes light up when you put a plate with a Fred Flintstone size slab of beef in front of them… and if it’s bright red and barely cooked, the better it is.

Well, it turns out the relationship between men and their love for meat may have something to do with a strange stereotype about meat.

Turns out meat is macho – at least in the eyes of the consumer.

According to the report  in the Journal of Consumer Research — meat = masculity; vegetarianism = no-so-manly.

Around 4,000 college students in the study were polled about their opinions regarding meat, vegetarianism and manliness. Most people told researchers they consider men who eat meat more masculine than those who stick to their veggies.

“To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food,” the authors write. “Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy.”

I might actually think twice about the study, but one of the authors is Brian Wansink, from Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, who I have a ton of respect for and think he’s doing great things in the world of healthy eating.

But, really? What about Paul Newman, Richard Gere, Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, Jeremy Piven and Sting. You can’t say they’re not pretty studly!

Still, even being a vegetarian myself, I suppose there is a bit of a stereotype that surrounds this lifestyle.

I can’t help but think it, for one, harkens back to the days when it was the men who hunted animals for food for their family A man who could kill and animal could feed his family – which, one has to imagine, is kind of manly.

Secondly, there’s the idea that a lot of people turn to a vegetarian lifestyle for its benefits in helping someone to maintain a desired weight – a ‘girlish figure’ if you will. While there may be plenty of men who do worry about their ‘figures’ it certainly isn’t manly to worry about gaining weight.

But lest we forget the growing body of research that connects red meat with heart disease. Last time I checked, being alive is slightly more appealing and manly than the alternative!  And, there’s a reason more and more people are taking part in “meatless mondays” and it’s not just because of the aliteration.

Steakhouses rejoice – you’re probably not going anywhere any time soon… but Wansink and his fellow researchers suggests we should give a shout-out to the companies making veggie burgers that bare a resemblance to meat – pre-marked with grill lines and all!