The present studies explored the associations among food's utilitarian benefits, the human values symbolised by meat, individuals' endorsement of those values, and individuals' meat identification, attitudes and consumption. A preliminary study revealed that participants perceived that meat, particularly red meat, symbolises the endorsement of inequality and hierarchy values more than other basic foods. Studies 1 and 2 found that the endorsement of inequality and hierarchy formed the basis to the meat attitudes and consumption of high meat identifiers. Study 2 found that the meat attitudes of high meat identifiers were also founded, though to a lesser extent, in the endorsement of Conservation and rejection of Openness values. Study 1 also showed that food's nutritional benefits did not form the basis of meat consumption among high meat identifiers. Moreover, Study 3 found that informing individuals (in the treatment group) of the nutritional deficiencies of meat did not alter the meat attitudes of high meat identifiers, meat identification per se, or the meat attitudes of individuals who have a predisposition to attend to the symbolic meanings of products. In contrast, the negative nutritional information did produce unfavourable meat attitudes among low meat identifiers and those who have a predisposition to attend to the utilitarian features of products. The formation of meat identification is discussed. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.