Target Grade Level / Age Range:

3 rd Grade

Estimated Time:

45 minutes

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system.


Students will be able to identify the physical resources, human resources, and physical capital needed to produce pork and by products made from pigs. 


Essential Files

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Natural resources: resources created by nature. Natural resources include soil, water, air, and minerals. Plants and animals are often considered natural resources too.  r.
  • Human Resources: people who make up the workforce of a business or industry.
  • Physical Capital: manmade things used by businesses including buildings, machinery, computers, office supplies, etc. 

Background – Agricultural Connections

Pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world. Bacon, sausage, ham, pork chops, ribs, pepperoni, and hot dogs are all made from pork.  

Other valuable products from pigs include insulin for the regulation of diabetes, valves for human heart surgery, suede for shoes and clothing, and gelatin for foods and non-food uses.

Bones, skin, fat and other by-products from pigs are made into ingredients in products such as water filters, insulation, rubber, antifreeze, certain plastics, floor waxes, crayons, chalk, adhesives and fertilizer.

Just like us, plants and animals on farms need natural resources to live. Four primary types of natural resources utilized in agriculture are sun, soil, water, and air.

The sun is a source of energy for all life. Plant leaves capture sunlight to make food, or energy, to grow. Farm animals eat plants. By eating food from plants and animals,  the sun gives us energy too.

Soil is essential to growing plants, and Iowa has some of the best soils in the world for growing corn and soybeans – essential ingredients in the feed pigs eat.

Water is the natural resource that is required in the largest quantity by pigs.  A nursery pig, about 3 to 8 weeks old, drinks a half-gallon to a gallon of water per day. Sows that are nursing a litter of piglets can drink up to six gallons of water per day! Farmers use automated waterers in barns so pigs always have fresh clean water available to drink.

Plants, animals, and people need clean air to live. Animals and people breathe in oxygen that plants release. Plants take in carbon dioxide that animals and people breathe out. Pig barns are well ventilated. They have automated fans and windows to keep fresh air moving through the barn. 

Human resources are essential to agriculture too. A farm is rarely operated by one person. Depending on the size of the pig farm, the owner may utilize a few family members or many employees to help manage the business, care for the pigs, maintain the buildings and equipment, and do other work on the farm. 

Physical capital on farms include tractors, machinery, barns, pens, heating and cooling systems, computers, feed storage bins, etc.  These things are expensive but necessary investments. Buildings, equipment and technology farmers use are often designed for a certain size of animal or type of crop. If farmers raise livestock, they usually raise one type or even specialize one stage of the growth cycle.  This enables them to invest in the in the facilities, equipment, and technology needed to produce it and produce it well.  

In this lesson, students will read a book about raising pigs, discuss different types of resources (human, natural, and physical capital), then play a game to identify resources in each category that are needed to produce pork.

Interest Approach – Engagement

Who likes bacon? What about ham sandwiches or pepperoni?  All of these foods and more include pork from pigs!  

Ask students to look around the room for items made from pork by-products. Challenge them to find these items; glue (made from animal bones), crayons (from fats or fatty acids), chalk (from fats or fatty acids, paint (from fats or fatty acids), paint brushes (from hair), or gloves, shoes and other leather items (from skin).

All of the goods we use eat, wear and use utilize resources. Farmers utilize many resources to raise pigs.


  1. Have students read or listen to the My Family’s Pig Farm book. Allow students to view the photos and make observations. 
  2. Ask students to brainstorm a list of 10-15 things or resources that Caeden’s family used on their farm. Capture their responses on the board or a large writing surface. The list may include, but isn’t limited to:
    1. soil (to grow the corn and soybeans)
    2. sunlight
    3. water (rain)
    4. manure (as fertilizer for the plants)
    5. corn and soybeans (as feed for the pigs)
    6. barns
    7. tractors (to plant the corn and beans)
    8. combines (to harvest the corn and beans)
    9. manure spreaders
    10. fences/pens
    11. computers (to monitor the pigs)
    12. fans (to keep the pigs cool)
    13. waterers
    14. trucks
    15. vaccines (to prevent pigs from getting sick)
    16. boots
    17. coveralls
    18. veterinarian to check on health of animals
    19. banker to provide a loan to build a new barn
    20. nutritionist to help mix the feed ration
  3. Explain natural resources, human resources, and physical capital are used to produce all of the goods we eat, wear and use. Provide a few examples of each type of resource.
    1. Work as a class to divide the list of resources on the farm into natural resources, and human resources and physical capital categories.
    2. For example: soil, sun, water would be natural resources. Human resources would include the veterinarian, banker, and nutritionist. Physical capital would include the barn, the trucks, the fences/pens, etc.
  4. Divide the class into teams of 3-5 to brainstorm more resources by playing a list making game. 
    1. Hand out copies of the Resources Challenge Sheet
    2. Explain that the groups will have 5 minutes to list all of the natural resources, human resources, and physical capital that Caeden’s family needs to raise pigs.
      1. Encourage them to refer back to the text and pictures in the book. 
      2. For the human resources category, prompt them to think beyond the people directly mentioned in the book. What other people and businesses in the community would Caeden’s family work with to run their farm? (ie: feed salesman, banker, mechanic, veterinarian, accountant, etc.)
  5. After they are finished, explain that they will do an elimination challenge to see which group was able to list the most resources in each category. There will be three rounds of the challenge, one for each category. 
    1. Starting with natural resources, go around the room asking groups to read one item on their list aloud.
    2. Write each item on the white board.
    3. Ask groups who also have that resource on their list to cross it off.
      1. Explain that the resource cannot be used again, and that if a group rereads an item that was previously read, they are out of this round of the game.
      2. If a group lists a resource that should be in another category, they are also out. 
    4. The last group with a resource left on their list is the winner of that round.
    5. Repeat steps 5.a through 5.d for the human resources and physical capital categories too.
  6. Explain to students that raising pigs on the farm is the just one part of the process of producing pork.
  7. Distribute copies or provide the digital version of Iowa Ag Today: Food, Health and Lifestyle. Have students read the centerfold article titled Pork: From the Farm to You.
    1. Discuss the natural resources, human resources or physical capital are utilized in all parts of the production cycle (production, transportation, processing, distribution and consumerism).  

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Iowa is the top pork producing state in the U.S.
  • Pigs are weaned when they are two to four weeks old. They are called “nursery pigs” until they reach 50 pounds and “growing/finishing pigs” from then until they reach about 240 pounds. After that they are called hogs. Hogs are usually taken to market when they weigh 240-280 pounds.
  • Nursery pigs drink a half-gallon to a gallon of water per day. Sows that are that are nursing a litter of piglets can drink up to six gallons of water per day!

Extension Activities

  • Compare the physical capital needed for various stages of the pig’s life cycle. How do the pens, feeding systems, and other aspects differ?  If you were a farmer, would you want to have a farrow-to-finish farm or specialize in one growth stage?  Why?  
  • From the class activity, students may have noticed a circle or cycle. Corn and soybeans are grown and then fed to pigs. The manure that pigs produce is then spread onto fields to help fertilize the corn and soybeans. Have students draw a diagram that show that cycle.
  • Have students create a pork inventory. Have them look in their refrigerator and/or freezer at home and count the number of pork products they have. Ensure they look at the labels to see if pork is one of the ingredients (like pepperoni). If the student comes from a vegetarian household encourage them to create an inventory of other pork by-products. Use these lists as guides:
  • Assign students or groups of students a crop or livestock animal and research all of its products and by-products. Then, ask students to write a short informative essay or create a poster that explains the use of that product.

Suggested Companion Resources



Cindy Hall

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T1.3-5.b. Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production
  • T1.3-5.e. Recognize the natural resources used in agricultural practices to produce food, feed, clothing, landscaping plants, and fuel (e.g., soil, water, air, plants, animals, and minerals)
  • T3.3-5.b. Diagram the path of production for a processed product, from farm to table (extension activity)
  • T5-3-5.d Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life

Iowa Core Standards

  • SS.3.13. Identify how people use natural resources, human resources, and physical capital to produce goods and services.
  • SS.3.15. Analyze why and how individuals, businesses, and nations around the world specialize and trade. (extension activity)

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