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Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Barbara Tharp, MS.

Let's Talk About It

This activity introduces the concept that food must be broken down, both physically and chemically, before it can be used by the cells within an organism. Students learn about digestion and proteins by observing the action of meat tenderizer on luncheon meat, and they discover that the stomach serves as a powerful mixing machine in which food is combined with special chemicals (enzymes) that begin to break large food molecules into smaller ones.

Stimulate a class discussion about students’ observations by asking, What did the meat look like after it was combined with meat tenderizer for an hour? Had it changed color or texture?

Have each group share its observations with the class. Then ask each group, Did your observation match your prediction of what would happen when the meat was left in the bag with meat tenderizer? Ask students, What do you think the meat tenderizer was doing to the meat? Explain that meat tenderizer is a chemical that helps to soften the muscle fibers in meat by beginning to break them down into smaller pieces. 

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932