First page of the document

4-H Animal Science Everywhere: Creating and Evaluating Steaks


June 10, 2020 -

Skill Level:

Beginner to advanced

Life Skills:

Communication, cooperation, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and teamwork


A room with at least one table and work space for four or more teams (depending on the size of your group)


20–30 minutes


  • 2 or 3 ounces of red modeling clay (such as Play-Doh) per team
  • 2 or 3 ounces of white modeling clay per team
  • One copy of the “T-Bone Steak Packaged for Retail Sale” photo
  • “Meat Science” resource sheet (one per participant)
  • Pen or pencil (one per participant)
  • Scratch paper for each participant
  • Toothpicks (four per group)
  • Coffee stirrers (four per group)
  • Scissors (one per group)
  • Plates (two per group)
  • Labels numbered one through four
  • Clock or stopwatch


The Sculpting Meat Science – Creating and Evaluating Steaks lesson is designed to help young people learn about the important factors associated with selecting meat. In the interactive lesson, participants will work in small groups to create a modeling clay steak to use in a model meat judging contest. They’ll also learn the factors to consider when selecting meat products, and the importance of marbling and leanness in meat animal projects.


After completing this activity, participants will be able to: Think creatively to design a product with limited materials. Identify the importance of quality and cutability in meat. Prioritize the factors associated with selecting retail cuts, wholesale cuts and carcasses, while comparing the importance of these factors across species.


Before the meeting:

  1. Read the activity instructions and gather the supplies you will need.
  2. Make one copy of the “Meat Science” resource sheet for each participant. Print as large a copy of the “T-bone Steak Packaged for Retail Sale” photo as possible.
  3. Separate both colors of modeling clay into roughly equal amounts for each team (about 2 to 3 ounces of white modeling clay and 2 to 3 ounces of red modeling clay. Have one plate per team with both colors on it ready at the start of the lesson.
  4. Create a supply area where teams can pick up their materials when instructed to do so. Lay out two plates for each team: One plate with the team’s two colors of modeling clay on it and one plate that includes their allotment of toothpicks, coffee stirrers and a pair of scissors.

During the meeting:

  1. Introduce the activity by holding up the photo of the T-bone steak. Tell the group that they’re going to create a T-bone steak with a limited set of materials, learn how to evaluate meat and then put the methods to work to compare the steaks they made.
  2. Pass out the “Meat Science” resource sheet, pens or pencils, and scratch paper. Review the definitions and the beef, pork and lamb sections with the group. (Note: Depending on the ages and reading skills of your group, you may want to read it aloud or have the participants read it in small groups.)
  3. Next, tell them to look at their resource sheets again and:
    • Circle the factors that are most important in selecting higher quality retail cuts for each species. Answers:
      • Beef = Marbling and the least plate waste
      • Pork = Trimness
      • Lamb = Trimness
    • Underline the factors that are most important in selecting higher quality wholesale cuts for each species. Answers:
      • Beef = Beef quality grade is the most important, then trimness second and muscling third
      • Pork = Trimness
      • Lamb = Trimness
    • Star the factors that are most important in selecting higher quality carcasses for each species. Answers:
      • Beef = Beef quality grade is the most important, then trimness second and muscling third
      • Pork = Trimness
      • Lamb = Trimness
  4. Review the answers with the group to make sure they understand the concepts.
  5. Split the group into four teams of roughly equal size. Have each team move to one of the four work stations. (Note: Depending on the size of your group, you may need more than four teams and work stations.)
  6. Tell the teams they’ll have 8 minutes to make a T-bone steak using only the tooth picks, coffee stirs, scissors, plates, and white and red modeling clay provided. Tell them they don’t have to use all of the resources.
  7. Have one representative from each team come forward to collect their supplies when you say “go.” Use a clock or stopwatch to keep time. Give the teams 2-minute and 30-second warnings.
  8. After 8 minutes, or once all of teams have completed their steaks, have the teams place their steaks together in a central area. Label each steak with a number from one through four.
  9. Tell the group that the judging contest is about to begin, and that during such a contest, they may not speak or touch the steaks. Inform them that they need to carefully review the steaks so they’ll be ready to answer several questions about them shortly. Have one team at a time come forward without talking and carefully evaluate each steak. At this point, participants may no longer touch the steaks.
  10. Once they’ve all reviewed the four steaks, ask the following questions about the four steaks. Tell them to write down their responses for each question without looking at the steaks. (Note: If you have a smaller or younger group, have them answer verbally.
    • How are the steaks similar? How are they different?
    • Which steak appears to have the most marbling?
    • Which steak appears to have the highest percentage of muscle?
    • Which steak would you select to eat, and why?
  11. Ask for volunteers to share their answers with the group.
  12. Now have the participants rank the class of steaks first through fourth place on their scratch paper. Explain that the placings go from left (first place) to right (fourth place). For example, ranking the steaks 4-3-2-1 means steak 4 is your favorite and steak 1 is your least favorite. Ranking them 3-1-4-2 means steak 3 is your favorite and steak 2 is your least favorite.
  13. Review the placings with the group. Reinforce how the concepts of marbling, muscle, bone content and fat deposits affect the rankings. (Note: You could also have the participants share how they ranked the class with their teammates, and work to find a common answer before reporting back to the large group.)


Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at