Want to be a Jr. Animal Scientist?

Want to learn more about pets, farm animals and zoo animals? Jr. Animal Scientists are students ages 5 to 12 who want to learn more about science and the animal world. Membership comes with a subscription to Jr. Animal Scientist magazine.

Learn about interesting experiments, science careers and animal research. Try do-it-yourself activities and play animal science games!

Click here to learn more!

Membership will require guardian or teacher permission.

Learn about dairy!

Milk can come from a cow, but how does the cow make the milk? The new issue of Jr. Animal Scientist magazine has article on "The science of milk." Click here to see a preview of the magazine

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Animal products

Can you match the animals with the products they produce?

If you need a hint, check out the Animal Products page! Some of the animals match with multiple products. The animals are in blue and products are green. (Check the answer key at the bottom of the page).

Match the animals with the products they produce

Answer key:

1) C, F, I, H     2) L,O         3) B, C, F, H      4) C, D, F, J, K       5) E                 6) L, M, O   7) D, G, J, K      8) L, O       9) N               10) G            11) A, D, G, K, J    

Photos courtesy of:

National agriculture image gallery
Agriculture Research Service
Myplate.gov
American egg board
Scott Radcliffe

Products from animals

Some unusual products come from animals. Click here to learn more

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Where does food come from?

People need food to keep them alive and their bodies healthy, but do you ever wonder where your food comes from?

The next time you’re hungry, make a sandwich. Use this recipe and learn as you go!

To make this sandwich, you will need:

  • 2 slices of bread

  • A few slices of your favorite kind of deli meat

  • 1 or 2 slices of your favorite kind of cheese

Take one piece of bread and lay it flat. Take the meat and the cheese and layer it on top of that piece of bread. Then, place the second piece of bread on top. Congrats! You just made a meal all on your own.

But where did the deli meat and the cheese come from? Sure, you may have bought it from a grocery store, but where did the grocer get it? How was it made?

Deli Meats:

Deli meats are slices of cold, previously cooked meat. There are a lot of different kinds of deli meat. Below are videos that show how some of them are made.

Sausage and bologna

Grinding up meat from cows or pigs makes certain kinds of deli meats, such as sausage. The meat is then seasoned. After it has been seasoned, the meat is placed into a special casing by machines and turned into links. Cooking the meat kills any harmful bacteria. Finally, the meat is packaged and sent to a grocery store.

Watch the process in more detail here!

Turkey and chicken

Other deli meats, such as turkey or chicken, are made a little differently. Seasoning solutions are injected into the meat with needles and machines are used to tenderize the meat. After being tenderized, more seasoning is added to the outside of the meat. It is then placed into a plastic wrap and excess air is vacuumed out. The meat is smoked for 6 hours to cook the meat. The meat is removed from its plastic wrap, fried and then cooked some more. This improves flavor and gets rid of any bacteria that could make you sick. Finally, the meat is packaged and sent to a grocery store.

Watch the process in more detail here!

Cheese:

Cheese is a co-product from milk.

Cows are milked using an automatic milking machine. Bacteria are added to help preserve the milk. These are not the kinds of bacteria that make you sick. The type of bacteria used depends on the kind of cheese being made. Different bacteria make cheeses have different colors and flavors. The milk is heated and more bacteria are added. This causes the milk to become partially solid. The solid parts of the milk are called curds. The part that remains a liquid is called whey. The curd is what will later become cheese. The curds are placed into a mold and pressed to get rid of any excess whey. The cheese is then soaked in salt water to harden and preserve the cheese. The cheese is then set aside to mature. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the kind of cheese being made.

Watch how Swiss cheese is made here!

Milking machines

Some cows are milked by milking machines. The machines are designed to suction milk quickly without hurting the cow.

Photo from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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Minerals keep animals healthy!

The soil in a garden is full of important minerals that keep humans and animals alive. A mineral is a naturally occurring substance that is solid at room temperature. Rocks are made up of different kinds of minerals.

Your whole body relies on minerals from soil. A mineral called iron helps your blood carry oxygen. A mineral called potassium helps you move your muscles. Minerals called boron and calcium help you build healthy bones.

Overall, there are 21 minerals that are essential for life. These are called bioessential minerals, and you could not live without them. All of these minerals occur naturally in the soil around us.

But people don’t eat soil, so how do minerals get into our bodies?

It starts with plants. Plants have roots that soak up water in the soil. Water can carry small amounts of minerals into the roots. Plants use those minerals to grow.

When an animal or human eats plants, the animal or human can absorb those minerals. When you eat meat, the minerals that were in the animal go into your body. 

Some people also get these important minerals by taking vitamins and supplements. People with a disease called anemia do not have enough iron in their bodies, so they take iron supplements.

Farmers can also feed mineral supplements to their livestock. They may feed cattle minerals like copper, iodine and selenium. Livestock also get minerals by eating plants that grew in soil.

Clearly, soil is an important part of life on Earth. People who study soil are called soil scientists.

Learn more about soil science

Fun fact:

Soil science experiments can be fun to do for a science fair! Click here to learn about experiments you could try at home or at school.

Top photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Soils4Kids

There's a lot going on in the soil under your feet. Explore a site called Soils4Kids.org to learn about soil around you.

You can also learn about starting a career as a soil scientist.

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The life of a dairy cow

Learn all about calves, heifers and milk!



Be a Jr. Animal Scientist

A new magazine has even more information about animal science and milk production. The Nov. 1 issue of Jr. Animal Scientist magazine has fun activities and even an article about a scientist who works at the St. Louis Zoo. Learn more

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Bugs for breakfast?

If you live in the United States, you probably don’t eat insects for breakfast. But in many parts of the world, insects are a healthy part of meals. Many insects are high in a nutrient called protein. Many insects are also easy to raise and keep as a food source.

In Thailand many people eat the larvae of a moth called the bamboo borer. These “bamboo worms” are often cooked in hot oil. Some people say the cooked larvae taste like potato chips.

In southern Africa some people eat a moth larvae known as the “mopane worm.” Mopane worms are picked in the wild. They are then dried or canned for human consumption. Mopane worms are sometimes eaten with tomato sauce or chili sauce to add flavor.

In Australia the witchetty grub is a traditional food for the Aboriginal people. Witchetty grubs are long and white. They are eaten raw or cooked in hot ashes. Some people think the raw grubs taste like almonds.

It is not common to eat insects in North America, but there are some restaurants where you could order insects with your meal. A restaurant in Vancouver, British Colombia actually serves a cricket pizza!

Insects might be tasty, but there are some drawbacks to eating them. In some places, people have over-harvested insects in the wild. For example, the mopane worm is now hard to find in some areas of southern Africa

Pets eat bugs too

Insects are an important part of many animal diets. If you have a pet frog or lizard you might feed it mealworms. Mealworms are small, brown beetle larvae. They are given live to pets like lizards. Many pet frogs and lizards will also eat live crickets. By hunting a live cricket, the frog or lizard practices its natural hunting behavior. (Photo credit: Peter Halasz)

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Animal copycats

Animals have to eat to survive. Animals that eat other animals are called predators. The animals they eat are called prey. For example, a cat is a predator and a mouse is the cat’s prey.

Prey animals want to escape from predator animals. Some prey animals are fast, and can outrun the animals who are trying to capture them. Other animals use camouflage to hide themselves. Camouflage is when an animal’s appearance keeps it safe from predators. One type of camouflage is called mimicry. Mimicry is when one animal mimics, or copies, another animal in order to confuse a predator.

Here are two types of mimicry:

Batesian Mimicry

Some animals are dangerous when eaten. For example, eating a poison dart frog can kill a predator or make a predator very sick. Poison dart frogs have bright-colored patterns on their skin that warns predators “I’m poisonous.” Predators see the bright patterns and know not to eat that frog.

Batesian mimicry is when an animal that is not dangerous mimics an animal that is dangerous. Over time, some animals have developed the traits that make them look dangerous. Traits are conditions, like hair color, that an animal gets from its parents. Some harmless frogs have a trait that makes them have the bright pattern like the dangerous frogs. Predators don’t want to eat the harmless frog either.

When a harmless animal disguises itself like a dangerous animal, the relationship between the two animals is called Batesian mimicry. Batesian mimicry is named after a scientist called Henry Walter Bates. Bates studied wildlife in Brazil.

Müllerian Mimicry

Müllerian mimicry also involves two animals that look like each other. Unlike Batesian mimicry, both animals are dangerous.

When two dangerous animals look the same, it doubles the chance that a predator will remember not to eat either animal. The predator will think the animals are same.

An example of Müllerian mimicry is the relationship between the Viceroy butterfly and the Monarch butterfly. Both butterflies are poisonous to animals that eat them and both have similar black and orange patterned wings. A predator will get sick if it tries to eat one of the butterflies. The predator will then learn not to eat either kind of butterfly.

This type of mimicry is named after a scientist called Fritz Müller.

Learn more about animal species

Animals in disguise

Why do cheetahs have spots? These marking can help them blend in with grass and sneak up on prey. Many animals use disguises to hunt for food. Click here to watch a video on animal disguises

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You could work with animals!

Have you ever wanted to work with animals? Check out how you can get involved with animals of all sizes!

Did you know that you can show a rabbit, pig or cat? The National 4-H Organization is a youth organization that allows youth to get involved with agriculture and work with animals. Each state has a 4-H program that you can get involved with. Check with your county extension office as well for information. 

The National FFA Association is another organization where youth, middle school through college, can get involved with different aspects of agriculture.



Volunteer!

Animal shelters often look for volunteers to help with take care of the animals. Make sure you ask your parents’ permission before you contact a shelter. If you’re too young to help at the shelter, you could get your friends together to organize a supply drive. This is as simple as setting donation boxes for pet supplies at different locations around your community or school. Find out from the shelter what products are needed and advertise a list of those things as well. No matter how big or small your contribution, you will be helping animals!

Showing animals

In 4-H or FFA, there are opportunities to show animals like pigs! Showing animals is a great way to learn more about them. You can learn what animals eat, how they grow and what kind of housing they need.

Videos about kids who work with animals:




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Animal babies

Did you know that baby horses are called foals? Or that a baby pig can walk right after it's born? Learn about the lives of different baby animals.

Pigs




Cows




Horses

Sheep

Lamb Kids Video from Scott Radclife on Vimeo.

Zoo babies

Click here to learn about the cheetah cubs at the National Zoo.

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