Target Grade Level / Age Range:


Estimated Time:

Three, 45-minute class periods


Students will understand beef production, nutrition, and marketing, and will be prepared to compete in the High Steaks! Beef Marketing Competition’s elementary division.


  • My Family’s Beef Farm by Katie Olthoff
  • Poster board (optional)
  • Markers, crayons, paints (optional)
  • Digital art software - Paint, Publisher, Canva, etc. (optional)

Essential Files:


  • Cattle – the plural term for cows
  • Cow – a mother cow
  • Calf – a baby cow
  • Bull – a fully intact male
  • Steer – a male cow that has been castrated
  • Heifer – a female cow that has not had a calf
  • Nutrition – science related to healthy and balanced diets
  • Goods – merchandise or possessions bought and sold at markets
  • Producers – someone that makes, grows, or supplies goods for sale
  • Supply chain – the sequence of processes involved in the production and distribution of a good
  • Marketing – promoting and selling goods, including market research and advertising
  • Advertising – producing advertisements meant to encourage the sale of a good
  • Gregarious – fond of company or sociable

Background – Agricultural Connections:

This lesson plan is written to fully prepare a grades 3-5 elementary classroom to participate successfully in the High Steaks! Beef Marketing Competition. To find full rules, rubrics, and resources for this competition, please visit here:

This lesson set includes 3-4 days of learning. The first day is spent learning about beef nutrition. The second day is spent learning about marketing and the jobs associated in the beef supply chain. The third day is spent working in groups to create their final High Steaks! Beef Marketing Competition posters.

There are two basic groups of cattle raised in agriculture: beef cattle and dairy cattle. Beef cattle have been bred over many years to be better at yielding meat. Dairy cattle have been bred over many years to be better at yielding milk. Certain cattle breeds tend to be better at different things. Angus, Hereford, Limousin, Charolais, Maine Anjou, and others are beef breeds. Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, and Milking Shorthorn are dairy breeds.

Cattle gestate for nine months, like humans, and generally have single births. The calf is born at about 70 pounds and can walk within an hour of birth. Cattle farmers generally coordinate and schedule their herds to all calve (give birth) at about the same time, so that care, feeding, and marketing of the calves can be more efficient. Farmers may choose to calve in the spring or in the fall.

For beef cattle, the calf will typically stay with the mother for the first part of their life. The mother will care for the calf, provide milk, and teach the calf how to graze and drink water. When the calves are old enough to wean off of their mother’s milk, they will be taken to a separate pasture where they will get fresh grass, feed, and water.

Here in Iowa, this portion of the life cycle is very important for farmers. Many cattle farmers in Iowa would describe themselves as “cow/calf” producers, meaning they raise the mama cows and the calves. Some years they might “feed out” calves or raise them until maturity and sell them to a meat packing plant, but some years they might sell the calves shortly after weaning to a different type of producer that specializes in feeding out calves.

This type of production is called a feedlot. Calves in a kind of teenage-era of growth will be brought to a large lot and raised primarily on grains and other high-energy materials that help them grow in the most efficient way possible. These high-energy diets can be a part of a sustainability plan – calves that grow faster will in the long term drink less water, use fewer resources, and emit less methane. Iowa has more feedlots than any other state, partially because of the state’s ample supply of corn and soybeans (two of the main ingredients in cattle feed).

Though cuts of beef can vary in nutrition information, in general, beef is a good source of protein, zinc, and iron. Globally, markets show that as the wealth of a group of people increase, so does their demand for beef. It is a well-loved product from cheeseburgers and pot roasts to oxtail soups and bobotie.

Not unlike other areas of agriculture, there are a plethora of jobs available in the beef supply chain. Students may be most familiar with jobs like farmer and veterinarian, but there are many “office” type jobs in agriculture, too! Jobs like marketing, advertising, public relations, communications, logistics managers, software engineering, mechanical engineering, food science, trucking, grocery store workers, and way, way more, all exist – many of which are in Iowa! About 5% of Iowa’s population are farmers, but about 20% of Iowa’s population works in agriculture. That huge difference includes all of the other agricultural jobs that support farmers and our food supply chain.

This lesson set and program focuses largely on marketing. Though marketing includes advertising, it also encompasses more than that. Marketers learn about a product, pinpoint a demographic that currently buys it or that they want to buy it, and come up with plans to get those people to buy the product at a fair price that still provides the company profit. To learn more about different aspects of what marketers do, visit here:

For the elementary division of this competition, students will mostly need to focus on the creative aspect of marketing, by purposefully creating an advertisement poster. Students will be expected to use their new knowledge of beef nutrition to help create this advertisement. Elements like neatness, color, slogans, and accurate information are important.

To have your students’ projects be a part of the High Steaks! Beef Marketing Competition, you will need to register and submit projects within the designated timeline. Please visit for the current High Steaks! timeline, and for the full rules, rubrics, and resource list.

Interest Approach – Engagement:

Begin class by either reading My Family’s Beef Farm or watching a portion of this beef farm FarmChat® ( ~2:00-~9:00 recommended).

Periodically point things out to your students. What color are the cattle? Do they live inside or outside? What kind of features do they have? Do they like to be together or by themselves? Write down some key points about cattle on the board as they come up:

  • Domestically raised beef cattle are generally either all black, black with white features, or red with white features – not black and white spotted (those are dairy cows)
  • Beef cattle are generally raised outside, where they can access grass
  • Cattle are gregarious, meaning they like to stick together


  1. Day 1 – Nutrition and beef product brainstorm
    1. Begin by discussing nutrition with the class. What do they remember about MyPlate, or healthy eating?
      1. Point out ideas like balancing meals with different food groups.
      2. Protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains are all healthy parts of a balanced diet.
    2. Talk specifically about beef, and beef’s nutrition. Hand out or email the linked Beef Nutrition worksheet to have students fill out during this discussion.
      1. What food group does beef fit in to? (protein)
      2. What is one serving size for beef? (3 oz.)
      3. How much protein is in one serving? (26 grams)
      4. How much fat? (12 grams)
      5. How many calories? (217)
      6. Does beef have many vitamins or minerals? (Yes, zinc and iron are two important aspects of eating beef.)
      7. How does this compare to other foods, like ice cream or pop?
        1. Sweets, candy, and junk food have lots of calories, but not a lot of protein or vitamins. This makes food like beef, with more protein and vitamins per calorie a more nutrient-dense food! This is good for growing students like you!
        2. Calories measure energy in a food, and they are important. We need enough calories to keep us energetic and growing, but not too many that our bodies don’t need. Nutrient-dense foods like beef, fruits, and vegetables, help us eat the best amount of calories while still getting the nutrients we need.
    3. Next, talk about foods that students eat that include beef. Write down as many ideas as students have. Try to encourage more ideas that students might not think about, like ground beef in tacos, on pizzas, beef roasts, or roast beef luncheon meat.
      1. Help the students brainstorm enough ideas so that 3-5 students could be assigned to one of the topics. (For example, in a class of 17, generate 3-6 ideas for topics)
    4. Tell students that they will now be assigned to one of these food items
      1. Start calling on students in birthday order, asking them to choose one of the items one at a time. Try not to allow more than 5 students per one topic.
        1. *If class will be fully virtual, you may allow students to work individually.
    5. When all students are in a group, be sure to note which group students are assigned to. Instruct students to also note which group they are in and their group-mates. There is space for this on their nutrition worksheet.
    6. If time allows, break students into groups to discuss their topic. Have students take notes on their favorite things about their food product, and the nutrition of that product based on earlier discussion.
  2. Day 2 – What is marketing?
    1. Start class by asking students what they think “marketing” is. Write the word marketing on the board.
      1. Take ideas from students for a minute or so, trying to guide them to the correct answer. Ask students if they’ve heard of advertising, if they see advertisements on YouTube or during shows. Advertising is part of marketing.
    2. Explain to students that things people buy (goods) also have people who sell them. There are lots of people involved, including people who make the goods, people who figure out how much the goods should cost, people who figure out if people really want to buy the goods, and all of the people who ship the goods and sell them at stores.
      1. This is called a supply chain. The agricultural supply chain helps get plants and animals from the farm to the usable products we have in our homes.
    3. Help students visualize the supply chain by making a production to consumption mind map.
      1. *allow flexibility for how this takes place. In an in-person classroom, potentially each student could make their own or the teacher could write one on the white board. In a virtual class, each student could take their own notes, or the teacher could screen-share a virtual white board.
      2. In the center of the map, write Beef Production.
        1. In smaller circles coming out of that one, write careers or businesses that are associated in growing the beef cattle and getting the beef to people’s homes.
          1. These careers can be things like farmers, veterinarians, marketers, nutritionists, food scientists, truckers, butchers, grocery store workers, and more.
        2. For the careers that may be harder to understand, like farmers, marketers, nutritionists, etc., add other circles off of them to give a little explanation for what they do.
          1. For example, marketers help sell products by identifying target buyers and helping to modify or create materials to help sell their specific item.
      3. For example:
    4. As a class, spend some time discussing marketing and what a beef marketer might do. They need to figure out how to sell beef. How might they do that?
      1. They need to decide who buys beef (probably adults)
      2. They might tell people how healthy beef is
      3. They might come up with new ways to use beef
      4. They might make the packaging or logos look really nice and pretty
      5. They might try to think of clever ways advertise, with campaigns or slogans
      6. Take other ideas for what a marketer might do to engage with potential buyers
    5. Lastly, have a class discussion about how they would market beef if they were a beef marketer. Brainstorm specific ideas for logos, slogans, colors, demographics, recipes, and more that they could use.
    6. If time allows, allow students to again break into their small groups and further discuss their project. With what they now know about marketing, how might they best sell their product?
  3. Day 3 – Project work time
    1. This class period will be solely dedicated to project worktime. Before breaking students up into their groups, quickly give an overview of the project. Consider writing bullet points on the white board.
      1. Each group will make one poster marketing their designated beef product.
      2. Include beef nutrition information
      3. Make posters neat, organized, and nice to look at
      4. You may include other beef facts
    2. Break students up into groups with poster paper, markers, and other appropriate materials. Continue monitoring the groups throughout the worktime, helping point out room for improvement and answering questions as necessary.
  4. Wrap-Up
    1. Consider hanging all finished posters as a gallery and allowing students to do a gallery walk to view posters.
      1. Groups may also give short presentations on their posters, what they marketed, and how they tried to do that.
      2. When posters are complete, the teacher will need to make digital copies of each one (take photos or scan) and submit them to the contest submission portal. Make sure names are noted for each poster. Each project will need to be submitted separately.

Did you know?

  • Iowa has the nation’s 7th largest cattle inventory
  • Iowa has more cattle feedlots than any other state in the U.S.
  • Cattle are ruminant animals, meaning they have a four-compartment stomach

Extension Activities:

  • As a class, make one of the beef products! Include steps like food safety, nutrition of the product, safe use of kitchen tools, and a taste test.

Suggested Companion Resources:



Chrissy Rhodes

Organization Affiliation:

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

  • Food, Health, and Lifestyle:
    • A. Describe the necessary food components of a healthy diet using the current dietary guidelines
    • F. Identify careers in food, nutrition, and health
    • G. Identify food sources of required food nutrients
  • Culture, Society, Economy, Geography:
    • B. Discover that there are many jobs in agriculture

Iowa Core Standards:

  • 3rd grade
    • English Language Arts:
      • W.3.4: With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.
      • W.3.7: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
    • 21st Century Skills:
      • 21.3-5.HL.1: Obtain, interpret, understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family, and community health.
  • 4th grade
    • English Language Arts:
      • W.4.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
      • W.4.7: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
    • 21st Century Skills:
      • 21.3-5.HL.1: Obtain, interpret, understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family, and community health.
  • 5th grade
    • English Language Arts:
      • W.5.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
      • W.5.7: Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
    • 21st Century Skills:
      • 21.3-5.HL.1: Obtain, interpret, understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family, and community health.