Songwriter and producer Shane McAnally came up with the album's name, using the words "meat and candy" to suggest the "heftier songs" and "lighter fare" respectively. For the album cover, the band found photographer Michael Elins, to create an image of a female soda jerk before a table covered with meat products and candy. Lead singer Matthew Ramsey told Rolling Stone that the album cover "shows our personality without showing us, and it definitely shows that we're trying to do something different".
Giving it an "A–", Tammy Ragusa of Nash Country Weekly wrote that "The combination of catchy rhymes, clever lyrics, Matt Ramsey's warm, strong voice, and the band's subtle but delicious harmonie will have you singing, clapping, and dancing along."Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic rated the album 4 out of 5 stars, saying that "this is a sharper, savvier variation of Rascal Flatts: crossover pop as suited for an office as it is for a make-out session. That's an endorsement, not a dismissal: it's hard to sound this light and easy, but Old Dominion do it with aplomb and they're such talented craftsmen that Meat and Candy sounds better on the fifth play than it does on the first, and it sounds mighty fine that first time through."
The album debuted at No. 5 on Top Country Albums, and No. 16 on Billboard 200, selling 20,500 copies in its first week. Within the first month of its release, on November 28, 2016, it was certified Gold by the RIAA. It peaked at No. 3 on the Country Albums chart on its 17th week of release in March 2016 due to sale at both iTunes and Google Play stores, with 10,200 sold for the week. The album has sold 192,900 copies in the US as of May 2017.