Youth animal science: Biochemistry and chemistry

Take a deeper look at the science involved in animal production by exploring biochemistry and chemistry.

Youth apply science skills as they measure animal rations.
Youth apply science skills as they measure animal rations.

As learned in “Showcasing the science in ‘animal science’,” youth are using science in all aspects of raising animals. Anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, chemistry, ethology (study of behavior), virology (study of viruses), bacteriology (study of bacteria), endocrinology (study of hormones) and many more scientific fields play a large role in animal production.

With the adoption of the National Research Council’s report, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education,” Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H are working to increase science literacy through the inclusion of the Scientific and Engineering Practices described in the framework. These eight practices help guide youth through thinking about science while making the subject a little less intimidating. There are numerous MSU Extension news articles to help youth succeed in science and see it more in their everyday lives.

This article series will look more closely into the science that is inherently part of every 4-H animal project, breaking it down into five major areas including biochemistry and chemistry. Additional articles will include anatomy and physiology, virology and bacteriology, ethology and endocrinology.

Biochemistry and chemistry are involved in many aspects of animal production. Balancing an animal feed ration and ensuring all essential ingredients are included to maintain animal health is fundamental to science and animal care. To properly manage a project, youth need to know what the various feed nutrients are and how they contribute to the growth and health of their project. Specifically, understanding the difference between minerals and at what rate they are included in a diet can mean life or death for an animal. Nutrition and animal management become an elegant balance in animal production to allow animals to exhibit normal growth and function down to a cellular level. As caretakers, youth are responsible for the health and well-being of their animals from the feed they receive to the pathogen load that is in the animal’s pen.

4-H members raising an animal for meat production can also take the science one step further by looking at the end animal products of meat and by-products. Focusing specifically on the meat products, two Animal Science Anywhere lessons include “Identifying Cuts of Meat Activity: Pin the Meat Cut on the Animal” and “Sculpting Meat Science Activity: Creating and Evaluating Steaks.” These lessons are geared towards youth to help them better understand the location of meat wholesale and retail cuts. In doing so, youth can make smarter management decisions when it comes to raising animals as well as better understand the food system. In the larger picture, youth are applying science principles including chemistry to enable consumers a high quality eating experience down to the molecular level.

From animal tissues to feed rations, youth are able to directly apply science in raising animals. Continue helping youth learn more about animal science by using the MSU Extension 4-H Animal Science Anywhere lessons,4-H Science Blast activities or Animal Care and Well-Being resources. There are also several volunteer trainings offered in Michigan throughout the year, as well as more resources on the Michigan 4-H Resources page.

Other articles in this series:

Did you find this article useful?