Target Grade Level / Age Range:

4-5 th grades


30 minutes


Students will learn the basics of pig nutrition and how STEM used in pork production.


  • Sandwich Ziploc bags
  • Scale
  • Weigh boat
  • Containers with lids for each feed type
  • Pig feed sample
  • Toasted oat cereal – represents carbohydrates
  • Corn nuts (optional to add weight to toasted oats)—represents carbohydrates
  • Blue candy (M&Ms) – represents water
  • Raisins – represents minerals
  • Soy nuts – represents protein
  • Small candy (Nerds) – represents vitamins
  • White chocolate chips – represents fat

Essential Files

Suggested Companion Resources

  • Pigs & Pork in the Story of Agriculture by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey
  • Pigs: An A to Z Book by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey
  • Producers, Pigs & Pork  by National Pork Board
  • A Hog Ate my Homework! By Gary Metivier


  • Carbohydrates – a source of energy in the diet of animals that comes includes sugars, starches, and celluloses.
  • Protein – Found in meats, legumes, fish and eggs, proteins repair and build tissue.            
  • Pork – the meat that comes from pigs.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Students create and take away a representative sample of a hog ration.

Background – Agricultural Connections

Pork producers rely on nutritionists, engineers, and other farmers to help build a healthy diet for their pigs. These diets are all scientifically formulated and measured out carefully so that each pig gets the appropriate amount of feed for its nutritional needs.  All weights are based on a 9 pound ration.


  1. Students each take a “Feed Sack” plastic bag and label it with the explanatory feed sack sticker.
  2. Students will count out 6 blue M&Ms to represent that pigs drink up to 6 gallons of water a pig needs per day, depending on their growth stage.  Nursery pigs drink much less than a sow (mother pig) nursing piglets.   
  3. Students will weigh and add 10 grams of toasted oat cereal/corn nuts to represent carbohydrates in a pig’s diet. The weight should be recorded on the ration building worksheet.
  4. Students will weigh and add 4 grams of soy nuts to represent the protein in a pig’s diet. The weight should be recorded on the ration building worksheet.
  5. Students will count out 10 small candies and 10 raisins. Small candies represent vitamins and raisins represent minerals.
  6. Students should weigh out 2 grams of white chocolate chips, representing fat. These weights should be recorded in the ration building worksheet.
  7. Students use recorded weights to complete ration building worksheet, including calculating the fraction and percent of the whole ration each component comprises.
  8. Students use photographs and hog feed sample to associate the activity with real hog farms, farming procedures and hog diets.
  9. Talk with students about the real components of a hog’s diet as they create their own Feed Sack to emphasize that animals typically don’t eat candy, but they do eat a similar feedstuff to get a specific nutrient.
  10. Talk with students about the STEM careers needed to feed a pig, including a nutritionist and an engineer.  

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

  • Feed sack stickers to label the Ziploc bags with. Will include explanatory information, including a chart outlining what each human food represents.
  • STEM career pictures with explanations used to talk with students about STEM careers needed to produce food.
  • Ration building worksheet for students to calculate percentages, fractions, and develop other basic math skills.

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Iowa is the top pork producing state.
  • Most pigs in Iowa live in temperature controlled barns, where they are kept out of the weather and protected from diseases and pests.


Activity adapted from Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom            


Kelsey Faivre

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes 

  • Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
    • Understand the concept of stewardship and identify ways farmers/ranchers care for soil, water, plants, and animals.
    • Provide examples of specific ways farmers/ranchers meet the needs of animals.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
    • Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products.
  • Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
    • Discover that there are many jobs in agriculture.

Iowa Core Standards

  • Science:
    • 4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction
    • 5-PS1-3. Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties
    • 5-PS3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun
  • Math:
    • 4.NBT.A.3. Use place value understanding to round multi-digit numbers to any place.
    • 4.MD.A.1. Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz; l, ml; hr, min, sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit.
    • 5.NF.A.2 Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole, including cases of unlike denominators, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem. Use benchmark fractions and number sense of fractions to estimate mentally and assess the reasonableness of answers.
    • 5.MD.B.2 Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Use operations on fractions for this grade to solve problems involving information presented in line plots
  • Social Studies
    • SS.4.25  Analyze the impact of technological changes in Iowa, across time and place
    • 22. 4.26  Explain how Iowa’s agriculture as changed over time. 

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