Primary Consumers Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Did you know your backyard is crawling with primary consumers? Learn what primary consumers are, the role they play in food chains, and see examples of primary consumers in this lesson.

Food Chains & Roles


Imagine you are the tiny fish in this image. Swimming fast behind you is a bigger fish and behind him is a shark! I bet you would swim your fastest to avoid being eaten! Now imagine you are the shark! How would you feel being at the top of the food chain?

Food chains show the order in which organisms, or living things, eat each other for energy in the wild. Sharks eat big fish, big fish eat smaller fish, and so on.

Since food chains are all about energy moving from one organism to another, scientist classify the organisms in a food chain into roles based on how they get energy. The two main roles in a food chain are producer and consumer.

Producers & Consumers

All food chains start with producers like plants and algae, which make their own food from things in their environment like sunlight or chemicals. So you can think of producers as the energy-makers in a food chain.

While producers might not need to snack for energy, the other organisms in a food chain do. These organisms that eat (or consume) other living things for food are called consumers. If we think of producers as energy-makers, then consumers are energy-takers!

Primary Consumers

Most food chains have three types of consumers. The first type is the primary consumer, an organism that ONLY eats producers. That means that primary consumers ONLY eat plants or algae. Examples include cows (who eat grass and hay) and many types of insects (who collect and use pollen or eat leaves on trees).

Since the producers that primary consumers chow down on are plants, primary consumers are also known as herbivores, or plant-eaters. In a food chain, primary consumers are the first (or primary) link between producers and other consumers. They pass along the energy from the makers to the other takers.

Just like producers are food for primary consumers, primary consumers are food for the second type of consumer, called secondary consumers. The third type of consumer is called a tertiary consumer and they eat secondary consumers. So, not only do the roles in a food chain describe how an organism gets energy, they also let you know who eats who!

Examples of Primary Consumers


Take a look at the grassy field food chain in the picture. It starts with plants that are eaten by primary consumers like snails. The snail is then eaten by a secondary consumer (the bird) who is eaten by the tertiary consumer - the hawk.

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