Is the use of ‘Red meat’ for ‘Substance’ very popular? Can I say ‘Your talk doesn’t have any red meat,’ to talkative person?

Today’s (Aug 28) Washington Post carries the article titled, “Red meat on the menu as convention kicks off” followed by the following sentence.

“GOP delegates are scheduled to take the vote that will formally settle their party’s long primary battle, although there were signs of the un-mended rift between Romney’s backers and the minority of delegates supporting Rep. Ron Paul.”

I think I’ve seen the cases “Red meat” was used in the sense of the substance of political agendas in the past.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘red meat’ as

  1. meat (as beef) that is red when raw
  2. something substantial that can satisfy a basic need or appetite.

However, Cambridge Dictionary defines it only as ‘meat from mammals, especially beef and lamb.’

Oxford Dictionary likewise defines it only as ‘meat that is red when raw, for example beef or lamb. Often contrasted with white meat.’

Wikipedia gives a definition – Red meat in traditional culinary terminology is meat which is red when raw, and not white when cooked. Red meat includes the meat of most adult mammals and some fowl.

In any of Oxford, Cambridge Dictionary, and Wikipedia, there’s no reference of ‘something substantial’ to ‘Red meat’ as defined in definition 2. of Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Is the usage of ‘Red meat’ as ‘the substance (supported by concrete evidence)’ well-received?

Is it predominantly a political jargon? Can I say ‘There was no red meat in his talk (proposal)’ just casually?


You can certainly write “there was no red meat in his talk (proposal)” and be correctly understood to be criticizing the lack of substance.

The term red meat more often has a culinary meaning (edible meat which is red in color before cooking: typically cow, sheep, horse, duck, goose according to Wikipedia) or else functions as a political metaphor. The example you quote falls into the political category. Double-Tongued Dictionary has:

throw red meat v. to appease, satisfy, rally, or excite one’s (political) supporters

This political idiom has a cynical, arrogant air: red meat – a tasty, desirable food – is metaphor for an especially enjoyable tidbit; one throws red meat to one’s animals or to dangerous brutes to reward or appease them. DTD gives examples of usage: “throw red meat to the lions, the wolves, the sharks, etc.”

Google Book Search offers more tasty examples in print:

[T]he Bill goes too far in taking away from the counties various functions in order to give the district councils some red meat to get their teeth into …. (Parliamentary debates, House of Commons official report, 1971)

… Robert Rubin … is not a man even to countenance such discussion except in the strictly political sense of feeding some red meat to Greenberg, Carville, Begala, and the other politicos. (Mother Jones Magazine, Jul–Aug 1995)

Referring to these occasional hard-line policies as attempts to appease domestic audiences, the Echo of Iran observed that Rafsanjani’s “kinder, gentler foreign policy” is not simply “a hoax”. Rather, he and his aides know their preferred policies “rile the radicals” and “feel they must feed some ‘red meat’ to keep them at bay”. (Post-revolutionary Politics in Iran: Religion, Society and Power by David Menashri, 2001)

Barry Popik gives many more examples of the term as it has been used in politics since 1950.

Nevertheless, red meat is sometimes used metaphorically to mean something substantial. The more frequent idiom is plain meat (without the color), but you can locate plenty of examples of the former in printed literature using Google Book Search.

Source : Link , Question Author : Yoichi Oishi , Answer Author : MetaEd

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