Glossary of Food Terms – Take One
In the process of trying to eat food that is healthier, I have been exposed to a whole new vocabulary and some of this can be pretty confusing. I am building a glossary on the blog website, which means you need to go HERE to see the whole list. At any time, if you wonder what something means, check that page and if it is not listed, send me a message requesting a definition.
These definitions will be in what I call “people talk”. In other words, if there is a need to use another word that I didn’t know a few months ago or still don’t know, that word will also be defined and probably substituted in order to make the first term as accessible as possible.
In the interest of simplicity here I will NOT be providing in-depth explanations of WHY something is of issue. You can research that or suggest a topic for the blog.
ANTIBIOTIC FREE: Animals on factory farms are given antibiotics to compensate for their crowded and unsanitary living conditions and to help them gain weight. This overuse of antibiotics encourages the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains by giving bacteria resistant to the antibiotics a better chance of survival. Because the antibiotics we feed animals are similar to those for humans, the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains is a serious public health threat. There is no USDA system to monitor use of antibiotics or claims that no antibiotics have been used.
CAGE FREE: Cage-free hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, vital natural behaviors denied to hens confined in cages. Most cage-free hens live in very large flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens who never go outside
FREE RANGE: A free-range chicken is allowed to roam free without any caging. The USDA requirement is that the bird is allowed to be outside for part of the day.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOs) refer to plants and animals with an altered genetic make-up. GMOs are generally altered or manipulated by a non-natural means in order to incorporate genes from another organism. Usually genetic engineering (GE) is done to achieve a trait not normally held by an organism, such as longer shelf life, disease resistance or different colors or flavors. The dangers vs. benefits of GMOs are widely debated, but genetic modification is currently allowed in conventional farming. In fact, many organizations and studies estimate that possibly 70% or more of all processed foods sold to consumers now contain genetically modified ingredients.
HORMONE FREE: U.S. farmers have been giving sex hormones to cattle to fatten them up since the 1970s. The hormones increase the amount of meat the cattle produce without requiring extra feed. Cows are given six hormones, including estradiol-17 (a powerful estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone, as well as additional synthetic hormones that mimic testosterone and estrogen. These hormones are very stable and are not broken down at high temperatures, meaning that they are still in their complete form when we eat the meat. Animals that are raised hormone free are allowed to gain weight and grow naturally, possibly increasing the amount of time that the farmer keeps the animal before processing, one reason why the cost may be higher to the consumer.
NATURAL: Legally, food labeled “natural” does not contain any artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives, and, in the case of meat and poultry, is minimally processed. Meat from animals treated with artificial hormones can (and is) labeled “natural,” as is meat injected with saline solution (claimed to add flavor, which it does, but it also adds considerable weight to a product sold by the pound).
ORGANIC: Food grown without synthetic pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, fertilizers or other synthetic or toxic substances. No artificial flavors or colors have been added. Organic food does not include foods that have been irradiated or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Organic food is produced by farmers who focus on using reusable resources and to conserve the soil and water so to ensure environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers, bio-engineering, or ionizing radiation.
USDA: The United States Department of Agriculture was established by President Abraham Lincoln to expand homesteading and establish land grant colleges. Today the USDA monitors programs that provide grants and loans to farmers, food programs to qualified needy people, research, economic development, export and importing food oversight and much more.
This list will be continually supplemented on the glossary page on the blogsite.