BHSU professor to examine the social effects of meat consumption in the next Geek Speak lecture

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, April 19, 2016/Categories: 2016

Dr. Trenton Ellis

The beef industry is one of the major driving forces behind South Dakota's economy. Black Hills State University professor will explore the meanings and influence of meat consumption on the environment and social relations in the next Geek Speak lecture.

Dr. Trenton Ellis, assistant professor of human services at BHSU, will present "The Social Life of Meat" Thursday, April 21 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall, room 110. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Ellis believes meat has meanings beyond the nutritional ramifications of meat consumption.

"Though we are often not conscious of it, when we consume meat we are participating in a complex social interaction with a number of actors. When we eat meat, we are enrolling in a relationship with breeders, ranchers, food marketing companies, and even entire ecosystems," says Ellis.

Meat, as a symbol within the United States, is strongly connected to the social construction of masculinity, according to Ellis.

"Look no further than these "Slim Jim" commercials, where the choice of "the right kind of meat" leads to the desirable social outcome. Such commercials address what might happen if you are not being masculine enough," adds Ellis.

Ellis' presentation will give attendees an opportunity to see meat differently. Meat impacts the society in multiple ways, the most visible being the effect of meat on the environment.

"Meat is one of the only foods that if you don't eat it, people care," says Ellis. "If someone doesn't eat meat, people want to know why. Meat is perceived to be a norm and we never ask ourselves why we eat it."

Ellis argues that it's important to ask questions about the origin of the meat, where it will go after disposal, and in what relationships do consumers enter when they choose to abstain from meat or consume it.

This Geek Speak presentation will satisfy visitors' intellectual appetite regardless of their nutritional preferences and encourage an intriguing discussion, according to Ellis.

Sponsored by the BHSU University Honors program, the Geek Speak lecture series features academic discussion and topics not usually discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students to diversity within the disciplines.

For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse-Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email

Future Geek Speak topics include:
  • April 28, The University Honors Program Capstone Defense by Alicia Benz, biology major from Kildeer, N.D., and Ashley Ruegg, Spanish and history major from Gering, Neb. Both students will graduate May 7 as International University Scholars.

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