Glossary of Terms
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.
ASH FREE: Animals that are raised without Antibiotics, Steroids, or Hormones.
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.
CORN FED: If you buy beef at your local supermarket, chances are it comes from cows that were fed corn. Though cows are ruminants by nature, designed to digest grass, the cattle industry has been using corn for decades to fatten up cattle. A grain-based diet, however, causes many health problems for cattle and unhealthy cows mean unhealthy meat. Not only does meat from corn-fed cows carry the risk of pathogens such as E. coli, it is nutritionally inferior to meat from grass-fed cows.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOs) refer to plants and animals with an altered genetic make-up. GMOs are generally altered or manipulated 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.
GRAIN FED: All cows graze on pasture for the first six months to a year of their lives, but most finish at a feedlot on a concentrated mix of corn, soy, grains, and other supplements, plus hormones and antibiotics. This growth-spurt formula is the backbone of a hugely productive U.S. beef industry. A feedlot cow can grow to slaughter weight up to a year faster than a cow fed only forage, grass, and hay.
GRASS FED: A recent study by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found grass-fed beef to be significantly higher in calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene, and potassium than corn-fed beef. In addition, meat from grass-fed cattle is lower in both overall fat and artery-clogging saturated fat, grass-fed meat is higher in healthy omega-3 fats. Meat from feedlot animals has been found to contain only 15-50 percent as much omega-3s as meat from grass-fed cattle. Meat from grass-fed livestock is four times higher in vitamin E, and grass-fed meat is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient associated with lower cancer risk.
HEIRLOOM: An heirloom plant, heirloom variety, heritage fruit or heirloom vegetable is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large-scale agriculture. Many heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination, while fruit varieties such as apples have been propagated over the centuries through grafts and cuttings. The trend of growing heirloom plants in gardens has been growing in popularity in North America and Europe over the last decade.
HERITAGE: The advantage of heirloom, or open pollinated, plants is that the home gardener can continue growing these plants by carefully saving the seeds. This is where the terms heritage and vintage are often used regarding plants. Generations of growers within a family or community have passed down seeds of their favorite heirloom plants. Some nurseries have incorporated the word ‘vintage’ into their name when they mean heirloom. A heritage plant can be an open pollinated plant that has been successfully grown for many years.
HERITAGE COOKING: Recipes and dishes that are passed down from generation to generation and usually are found to be similar in a geographic area with a similar cultural history. Most of these dishes are slow cooked and develop aromas that people find appealing.
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.
HUMANE STANDARDS: The Certified Humane Raised and Handled® program is a certification and labeling program that is the only animal welfare label requiring the humane treatment of farm animals from birth through slaughter. The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label on a product you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment.
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.