Animals | Community Connection: Animals in our Diets Activity

Students explore the protein sources in their diet. After doing a protein diary for a day, they calculate how much feed was needed to raise the animals that supplied the animal protein in their diets and compare that to the equivalent amount of protein from beans. The end product is a scale diagram of the amount of plant material needed to support a vegan diet vs their own diet.

Guiding Question

What is my agricultural protein footprint?

Activities in this Lesson – Animals in our Diets Worksheet

  • Activity 1 My Protein Diary
  • Activity 2 My Agricultural Protein Footprint


  1. Explain why proteins can be used as an energy source for people as well as a source of building blocks.
  2. Analyze the amount of feed needed to produce the animal protein we eat.
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of eating animal vs vegetable proteins.

NGSS Performance Expectations – see unit

Background Information

The goal of this lesson is for students to connect what they learned in the Animals Unit to their own diets. To accomplish this, students apply what they know about how matter and energy change during cellular respiration to explain why protein can be used as an energy source for animals including humans. Students keep an animal protein diary and calculate the amount of feed needed to produce the animal protein. They compare this to the amount of beans/plant material needed to produce the same amount of protein and discuss the advantages of animal protein as a complete protein that features in many common dishes and disadvantages of animal protein having a bigger agricultural footprint in a world with more and more people to feed.

Key carbon-transforming processes: cellular respiration and biosynthesis

Talk and Writing

At this stage in the unit, the students will be applying unit ideas that should be well-developed. This is an opportunity to practice those ideas an additional time. The table below shows specific talk and writing goals for this phase of the unit.

Talk and Writing Goals for the Application Phase

Teacher Talk Strategies That Support This Goal

Curriculum Components That Support This Goal

Treat this as an opportunity to practice unit ideas

We’ve learned a lot about cellular respiration and biosynthesis in this unit. Let’s see how these ideas apply to our diets.

Listen for student ideas about matter and energy at different scales. Are they using unit ideas or informal reasoning?

How is this like or different from what we learned about how meal worms use the food they eat?

What scale(s) do we need to consider to answer this question?

How is protein like and different from sugar?

Three Questions Poster from the unit

Help students practice using precise language to describe matter and energy at different scales.

Let’s think about that: protein is good for you. Why is that? How do our bodies use protein? How do our cells use protein?

Molecule Poster

Three Questions Poster