Target Grade Level / Age Range:
1.5 hours plus independent research time
Students learn about the process of raising dairy cows, turning milk into cheese, and distributing the cheese to restaurants, and then work in teams to research the soil to slice path of other pizza ingredients.
- String cheese for each student (optional)
- Dry erase board and marker
- My Family’s Dairy Farm by Katie Olthoff
- 6 sets of chart paper and markers
- How It’s Made: Mozzarella video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlg7SaR5UQE
- Pizza Reader (link or printed copies for each student)
- Soil to Slice research links
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- My Family’s Dairy Farm by Katie Olthoff https://www.iowaagliteracy.org/Tools-Resources/Publications/My-Familys-Farm
- How It’s Made: Mozzarella video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlg7SaR5UQE
- Soil to Slice Research Links.docx
- Pizza Reader: http://www.agintheclassroom.org/TeacherResources/TerraNova/clr_pizzanews.pdf
- Food supply chain: The sequence of processes involved in the production and distribution of goods.
- Production: The step in the food supply chain that involves growing plants and raising animals to be used to make goods.
- Processing: The step in the food supply chain that involves cleaning and modifying. In agriculture, the alteration or modification, for the purpose of storage, transport, or sale, of an agricultural product.
- Distribution: The step in the food supply chain that involves selling, marketing, and transporting goods to stores, other businesses, and consumers.
- Career: An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress; generally, a profession requiring special training.
Background – Agricultural Connections
Growing food and moving it from farm to fork involves several steps and many hands. In a highly efficient, modern agricultural system, like we have in the United States, the following steps take place during food production:
- Production or Growing – Raising plants and animals for the raw ingredients. Production happens on different types of farms including livestock farms and ranches, vegetable farms and greenhouses, orchards, etc. The production step involves
- Preparation (getting ready to grow)
- Transportation (moving food from the farm)
- Processing – Turning the raw ingredients into the food products that are purchased by consumers.
- Distribution – Marking and distributing the food products to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, etc.
- Marketing and sales
- Consumption (preparing and consuming the food)
Each step also involves many people, including bankers, agricultural suppliers, farmers and farm workers, truck drivers, food handlers, government inspectors, millers, bakers, and chefs. Weather conditions, energy price and availability, storage facilities, and transportation problems can all affect this food system.
In this lesson, students will use a provided list of websites and documents to learn how ingredients for making pizza are grown, processed, and distributed. Below is a brief overview of the production process for meat, dairy, grain, and vegetable ingredients.
Meat Ingredients: Farmers raise livestock (farm animals), including cattle, pigs, and poultry for meat. Farmers carefully control what the animals eat. The farmers work with veterinarians and animal nutritionists to keep their animals healthy. Hamburger comes from beef cattle and sausage, pepperoni, ham and other pork products come from pigs. Chickens and turkeys are popular sources of protein and iron and are low in fat, calories and cholesterol. And, of course, chickens provide us with eggs.
Dairy Ingredients: Farmers raise dairy cows to provide us with milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Milk is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals – especially calcium. Milk is also rich in potassium and vitamin B12. Vitamin D is also added to milk to help with the absorption of calcium.
Only female dairy cows produce milk. Cows are milked 2-3 times per day by milking machines or even automated milking robots. Milk is transported from the farm to the cheese processor in refrigerated taker trucks. To make cheese, the milk is homogenized, pasteurized and bacteria culture is added.
Grain Ingredients: Wheat is a grain crop and popular for the flour ground and used for pizza crust. Wheat is also a livestock feed. Some oat and rye grain are also used for flour. Corn and soybeans are used for feed for livestock and for many products for humans. Most vegetable oil is made from soybeans. Cornmeal is often used to coat the bottom of the crust. It keeps it from sticking to the pan and provides a crisp, crunchy texture. Corn starch is used by frozen pizza companies to keep the crust from becoming soggy. It provides a barrier between the sauce and the curst that prevents water and keeps the rust crisp.
Vegetable, Fruit & Herbs Ingredients: Fruit, vegetables, and herbs come from various parts of plants. Flowering plants have six main parts—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Examples of pizza ingredients from each plant part include:
- Roots: carrots
- Stems: onions, garlic
- Leaves: spinach, arugula, basil, oregano, thyme
- Flowers: artichokes, broccoli,
- Fruits: peppers, olives, tomatoes, pineapple, eggplant
- Seeds: black pepper and dried red pepper
- Vegetables are grown in all 50 states, but locations with warm climates like California and Florida produce the most vegetables for commercial sale.
Interest Approach – Engagement
Share samples of string cheese with the class. As they are enjoying their cheese, explain that string cheese is mozzarella cheese, the same type of cheese that is on pizza. Explain that today they are going to learn about all of the steps involved in producing milk and turning it into the cheese we eat – from soil to cheese. To start the discussion, give the students one minute to brainstorm the people, places, and things that were needed to make cheese and get it to you. Write them on the board. Do not worry about putting them in order yet. Their list might include: farmer, dairy cows, milk, milk truck, cheesemaker, cheese processing plant, or grocery store.
Activity 1: The Journey of Cheese
- As a class, read the My Family’s Dairy Farm book. Allow students to view the photos and make observations.
- Refer to the list of ingredients and things that were needed to make cheese and where the milk and cheese traveled before it got to the school. Refer to the list of places where the milk and cheese went. Add anything new to the list.
- Next, explain that the My Family’s Dairy Farm book focused mostly on the production aspect of producing milk for cheese.
- Production is the step in the food supply chain that involves growing plants and raising animals to be used to make food and other goods. Production involves everything that happens on the farm, as well as people that farmers work with to raise crops and livestock and run their business.
- There are two other steps in the food supply chain that were only briefly mentioned in the book. They include processing and distribution.
- Processing includes making the milk into cheese and packaging it for distribution.
- Distribution includes the transportation of cheese, marketing, and sales.
- Watch the How It’s Made: Mozzarella video to learn more about the process of making cheese. Ask students to pay close attention to the people, places, and things needed to make, market, and distribute cheese.
- After the video, give the class time to add additional people, places, and things to the class list.
- Write the words Production, Processing, and Marketing on the board and label them 1, 2 & 3, since production comes first, processing is second, and distribution is last in the food production chain.
- Next, work with the class to decide which step of the food production chain each person, place, or thing belongs in. Write the numbers 1, 2 an/or 3 beside each item on their list to identify what is involved with production, processing, and distribution. Some people or things may fit into more than one step of the process. Milk, for example, is involved in the production and processing steps, so it should have a 1 and 2 beside it. For example: Farmer - 1. Dairy cows -1. Feed (corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc.) -1. Crop farmer -1. Soil – 1. Sun- 1. Water – 1 & 2. Milk – 1 & 2. Milk truck - 2. Cheese plant worker - 2. Cheese processing plant – 2. Machines at the plant – 2. Lab equipment - 2. Cheese truck – 3. Cheese truck driver – 3. Mechanic – 1, 2, & 3. Truck dispatcher – 1, 2, & 3. Sales people - 3. Graphic designer - 3. Grocery store - 3.
- Next, have the class work in small groups to create a poster that illustrates how the people, places. and things are used in their step of the food supply chain.
- Divide the class into six groups and assign a step of the food production chain to each group. Two groups will work on production, two on processing, and two on distribution.
- Each team should work together to create poster that illustrates their step of the food supply chain.
- Their posters should include 1) the name of their step of the food supply chain (production, processing, or distribution); 2) the place or places where their part of the process happens; 3) at least five people who are involved, and 4) at least five things that are needed.
- Let the students be creative as to how they represent their part of the food production chain. Their posters can include lists and simple pictures, but encourage them to make a graphic organizer, flow-chart, or mind map to show how the people, places and things involved are connected.
- Display the posters and have each group explain their poster to the class.
Activity 2: Soil to Slice Presentations
- Review the main concepts about producing pizza ingredients.
- Nearly all pizza ingredients are derived from plant or animals raised on farms.
- Three types of resources are needed to produce pizza and other food and household products. These resources include physical capital (things), human resources (people), and natural resources (sun, soil, water, air, plants and animals).
- Technology is an example of a physical capital resource that makes a job easier or more efficient.
- Investing in technology can reduce the amount of human resources needed to complete a task. Technology can also help conserve or protect natural resources.
- Examples of technology on farms include milking machines, tractors, GPS systems, etc. Examples of technology in food processing and distribution include automated cheese shredders, packaging machines, refrigerated trucks, etc.
- Nearly all food can be traced back to soil. Fruits, vegetables and grains are grown in soil. Meat, eggs and dairy products come from animals that eat plants that grow in soil.
- Only a small portion of the Earth’s land has topsoil that is well suited for growing food for us and feed for livestock.
- Iowa has some of the earth’s best soil, which is why most of the state is used for growing crops and raising livestock.
- Farmers use conservation practices to keep the topsoil in place and keep nutrients from entering water sources.
- The process of growing, processing, and distributing food is called the food supply chain. It has three parts:
- Production involves raising plants and animals for the raw ingredients. Production happens on different types of farms including livestock farms and ranches, vegetable farms and greenhouses, orchards, etc.
- Processing is the process of turning the raw ingredients into the food products that are purchased by consumers. Processing may include cleaning, cooking, cutting, packaging, and more.
- Distribution includes marketing and distributing the food products to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, etc.
- Ask students to develop slide or poster presentations showing how the ingredients for pizza are produced.
- Working individually or in teams, students should:
- decide what kind of pizza they will feature in their presentation.
- pick at least four ingredients in their pizza or toppings on their pizza to research and include in their presentation.
- use the Pizza Reader and resources listed on the Soil to Slice Research Links.docx document to learn more about how each ingredient is produced.
- develop a poster or slide presentation that features their pizza ingredients.
- Presentations should be eye-catching and visually appealing. Presentations should use correct spelling and grammar. Presentations should discuss the origins of four pizza ingredients. They should be accurate and demonstrate learning about agriculture and the food supply chain
- Working individually or in teams, students should:
Did you know? (Ag facts)
- When cows are lactating, they can drink a bathtub (30 gallons) of water and produce about 8 gallons of milk – in one day!
- Complete the Dairy Careers from Farm to Fridge to learn about the careers (human resources) needed to raise dairy cows and turn milk into cheese. https://www.iowaagliteracy.org/Article/Dairy-Careers-from-Farm-to-Fridge
Suggested Companion Resources
- Pizza Reader
- Where Does Your Pizza Come From? poster
- Pizza Ag Mag
- A True Book: Tomatoes
- A True Book: Wheat by Elaine Landu
- Extra Cheese, Please! by Cris Peterson
- The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) by Philemon Sturges
Part of this lesson was adapted from activities in the Pizz-a-Thon Facilitators Guide created by Eldon Weber with support from Iowa State University.
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.c Identify land and water conservation methods used in farming systems (wind barriers, conservation tillage, laser leveling, GPS planting, etc.)
- 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)
- T2.3-5.e Understand the concept of stewardship and identify ways farmers/ranchers care for soil, water, plants, and animals
- T4.3-5.b Describe how technology helps farmers/ranchers increase their outputs (crop and livestock yields) with fewer inputs (less water, fertilizer, and land) while using the same amount of space
Iowa Core Standards
- Social Studies
- SS.3.13. Identify how people use natural resources, human resources, and physical capital to produce goods and services.
- SS.4.25. Analyze the impact of technological changes in Iowa, across time and place.
- English Language Arts
- RI.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
- W.3.8 Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources.
- W.3.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.
- RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- W.4.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
- W.4.8 Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources,
- W.4.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
- RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
- W.4.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
- W.4.8 Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources.
- RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
- W.5.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
- W.5.8 Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources.
- W.5.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.