I found the phrase “serve up red meat to the crowd” in the following sentence of Washington Post's article titled “Michele Bachmann steals the show in Iowa”:

Michele Bachmann served up red meat to the crowd at the Iowa conservative principles conference Saturday, slamming President Barack Obama as a Jimmy Carter retread, dissing the Mitch Daniels "truce" call for social issues, and saying she wants a "waiver" from the last two years of White House leadership.

And I saw “serve red meat speeches" for breakfast in the following sentence of an article in the Buzz (http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/gop-candidates-serve-red-meat-breakfast)

At the Brokaw-McDougall House in Tallahassee early this morning, Republican candidates served red meat speeches for breakfast at the kick off for the whistle stop tour through North Florida.

What does “serve red meat” mean exactly? Obviously it’s not ‘meat that is dark brown in color when being cooked” as defined by COD. Is this day-to-day usage or political jargon? What is the origin of this phrase?

2 Answers 2


This expression is meant to conjure up the idea of a bloodthirsty pack of carnivores (here the audience of a speech).

The orator takes a fast track to popularity by throwing to the crowd the victim they expect. For instance he might vilify a personality or a piece of legislation he knows they dislike particularly.

  • As truthfully accurate a that answer is, some might take it as an exaggeration. The 'red meat' connotes both 'manly' and 'filling' talk, and so supposedly not necessarily politically correct or pandering to doves. To me it sounds like what used to be referred to as 'meat-and-potatoes' but from usage that might have connotations of working-class and therefore the dreaded 'union'. It's understandable as a day-to-day phrase.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 0:14
  • 1
    I doubt the expression has any real currency, so we can't really talk about what it means per se, only what some hack at the Washington Post intended when [s]he wrote it. Probably pretty much exactly what the image conjures up - an aggressive speech intended to incite the audience to unite in attacking [some social evil which can only be dealt with by force]. Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 0:48
  • "Red meat" and "raw meat" allude to an old idea that working dogs should not be fed uncooked meat because it was thought that it would cause aggression. To throw out, serve up or otherwise provide an audience with material that will rile them up. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:25

"Red" meat is RAW (uncooked) meat in its natural setting.

In a political setting, "red meat" represents "raw," unpolished, and highly partisan ideas. The speaker doesn't even make a pretense of trying to be polished or civil. S/he just wants to stir up the audience by appealing to their rawest emotions using the crudest constructions.

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