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Question of the Day: Efficiency of Food Production

Question of the Day developed by William Prothero.


The figure below shows a simple food chain for land production.

Food chain illustration
  1. How much solar energy does a vegetarian utilize when eating 1,000 calories of plant material? Use the information from the figure to calculate this.

  2. How much solar energy (in calories) does a meat eating person utilize when eating 1000 calories of meat? Use the diagram above to make your determination. The numbers below each figure are the number of calories stored at each trophic level.

References and Notes:

Question of the Day is a method used by Dr. William Prothero in his Oceanography Course at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Question of the Day page with more examples and tips on using them is part of the Starting Point: Interactive Lectures Module.


Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Ecology, Biology:Ecology:Principles, Education

Resource Type

Activities:Classroom Activity:Short Activity

Special Interest


Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Quantitative Skills

Arithmetic/Computation, Problem Solving:Equations

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Biosphere, Ecology




Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science