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

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In this activity, students will observe the action of meat tenderizer on luncheon meat. They will discover that chemicals in the body break down the proteins in meat.

Have the Materials Manager for each group collect 1/2 slice of turkey luncheon meat, a plastic knife and two re-sealable plastic bags. Instruct groups to label their bags “1” and “2.” Then, have students cut the piece of turkey in half. Students should place one section of turkey in bag 1, and the other section in bag 2, into which they also should add 1/2 teaspoon of meat tenderizer. Instruct groups to seal their bags and shake the turkey slice within bag 2 so that it is well coated with tenderizer. Have the students place their bags to one side of the classroom for about an hour. (If students will be making observations the following day, refrigerate the bags to prevent spoilage.)

Have students write, in their journals or on a sheet of paper, what they predict will happen to the slices of turkey. After an hour, have students observe the texture and color of the meat samples without removing them from the plastic bags. You may want to provide some interesting facts as students make their observations. For instance, meat tenderizer contains an enzyme called papain, which is extracted from the papaya plant. Enzymes break proteins apart into amino acids, smaller molecules that serve as the building blocks of new proteins for the body. And amazingly, enzymes themselves also are a kind of protein molecule!

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