Glossary of Local Food Terms

These local food terms have been made available to you through the combination of the following websites:

Co+Op, stronger together  http://strongertogether.coop/fresh-from-the-source/food-glossary

Mid-Region Counsel Governments of New Mexico  http://www.mrcog-nm.gov/local-food/local-food-glossary

Hudson Valley Bounty, Hudson, NY  http://hudsonvalleybounty.com/Local-Foods-Glossary

Glossary of Local Food Terms

Aquaponics: Aquaponics is most easily understood as the marriage of aquaculture and hydroponics (see definition below) to grow plants and raise fish together in one integrated system. The waste produced by the fish provides an organic food source for the plants and the plants naturally filter the water the fish live in creating a symbiotic environment for both organisms.

Artisan/Artisanal: Generally, these terms mean that the product was made by hand with great care and high-quality ingredients. They are most frequently applied to items like bread, chocolate, cheese, vinegars and jam.

Biodynamic: Based on the work of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, this method of farming is rooted in a holistic understanding of nature. Biodynamic farm systems emphasize biodiversity organized in such a way that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another. This results in an increase in the farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the farm sustainable. Biodynamic farming is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in a similar manner to organic farming.

Cage-free: Cage-free birds live in large houses in flocks of several thousand. While they might never go outside, they are able to walk around, spread their wings, and lay eggs in nests. There is no regulated definition of this term.

Certified: The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and Agriculture Marketing Service evaluate meat products for class, grade, and other quality characteristics. Their findings are then represented on food labels as “Certified,” such as “Certified Angus Beef.” The word “Certified” can also mean a product meets standards defined by a third-party, nongovernmental organization or trade group. In such cases, the USDA requires that the word “Certified” be printed in close proximity to the name of the certifying organization or standard, such as “Fair Trade Certified.”

Conventional: Products that are created via standard practices accepted by the agriculture industry are often called “conventional.” This isn’t an official term, but it implies that the product did not undergo any special production or certification processes, which means it may include pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified traits. It may also have been produced with agribusiness practices like use of synthetic fertilizers and monoculture cultivation (in which land is used exclusively for the constant cultivation of a single crop—a practice that leaves soil depleted of nutrients and often requires synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and/or genetically modified crops for continued use).

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a progressive purchasing model whereby community members have access to fresh, seasonal food of the highest quality while providing increased market opportunities for local farms. When you become a member of a CSA, you purchase a ‘share’ of vegetables (and/or other products) grown and/or raised by local farmers. A share generally consists of 7-12 different items that reflect the seasonality of the region. Consumers pay for share in advance of the growing season enabling the farmer to purchase seed and other inputs necessary to begin the season. A CSA typically operates on a weekly basis for a 20-24 week period during the height of the growing season, although some farms also offer fall and winter programs. In some cases, the farm will offer opportunities to add specialty items to you share such as jam, cheese, honey, or meat. The cost of a CSA share depends on the duration of the season and the variety and quantity of products.

Fair Trade: A market-based approach to reducing poverty and empowering farmers in developing countries by encouraging fair wages and labor conditions and promoting environmental sustainability. TransFair USA is the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, which carry the official “Fair Trade Certified” label.

Fair Trade Certified: Products produced and procured using practices that promote fair wages and environmental sustainability.

Farm Hub: A farm hub is a regional center that serves as a multi-faceted resource for local farmers. Farm hubs provide access to training, education, business development, research and other services designed to strengthen farming in local community.

Farmers Market: A direct marketing approach where consumers purchase goods from growers and producers in a market setting. Farmer’s and producers gather on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc) to sell their products directly to consumers. A wide variety of products can be found at farmers markets such as fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, jam, sauce, baked goods, honey, wine and more. Many farmers markets accept payment assistance programs such as EBT and SNAP.

Farmstead Cheese: The American Cheese Society classifies a cheese as “farmstead” if it is made with milk from the producer’s herd or flock and crafted on the farm where the animals are raised.

Food Hub: Food hubs are organizational structures designed to address the challenges of our modern day food system. Food hubs facilitate relationships and activities along the value chain to bring added value to farmers and local communities as well as providing broader access to institutional and retail markets for small and mid-sized producers. Food hubs generally manage the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of products from local and regional producers.

Food Mile: The distance food travels from the farm to your plate. On average food travels 1,500 miles, but by eating locally this number can be greatly reduced.

Food Security: Food security indicates reliable access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food to maintain an active and healthy life.

Foodshed: A defined area from which food is grown, processed, purchased, and consumed. We currently have a global foodshed, with products coming from a variety of places around the world. The local food movement aims to bring the foodshed closer to home, with foodsheds ranging from 100 miles to a larger multi-state region.

Foraging: Foraging is the practice of searching, identifying, and harvesting wild food resources. Many local foragers sell their harvests to local chefs and restaurants. Responsible foragers are careful to harvest in such a way that the plant can continue to produce edible material. Commonly foraged items include greens, mushrooms, berries, roots and edible flowers.

Free Range: A method of farming/ranching in which livestock are allowed to “roam freely,” instead of being confined to a feeding stall or cage. The term is most commonly associated with but not limited to poultry. Similar terms include “cage free,” “humanely raised,” and “pastured livestock.”

Free-Range/Free Roaming: Animals raised in an unconfined environment The USDA definition of this term applies only to poultry meat (not eggs) and suggests that animals were raised in an unconfined environment. However, the USDA’s requirement that chickens “must be allowed access to the outside” is somewhat vague and does not include any minimum amount of time for outdoor access. “Free-range” labels on beef, pork, and eggs are not regulated.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO): To make crops more suitable for industrial farming, many seed companies modify their genetic makeup by implanting traits from other organisms (often across species). The resulting crops offer more durability, volume, and other desirable traits, but there is concern over their safety, both for humans and the environment.

Gluten-Free: Indicates the absence of gluten, which is composed of two proteins that naturally occur in some grains, including wheat, spelt, and rye, and products derived from these grains. The term is not regulated in the US; products are labeled gluten-free voluntarily by manufacturers to assist people with sensitivities or allergies to gluten.

Grass fed/Pastured: Cattle, sheep, goats, and bison termed “grass-fed” graze on pasture during the growing season and eat a diet of dry grasses (hay or grass silage) during the winter months and in droughts.

Grass-Fed: A grass-fed label indicates the animals were fed a 100% grass diet of fresh pasture and dried forages (such as hay). Animals are not fed supplementary grains and have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. A number of third-party agencies have developed their own set of standards and guidelines for certification, such as Food Alliance and American Grassfed.

Grass-Finished: A Grass Finished meat label indicates the animals are fed a grass-based diet in the period prior to processing.

Grass-Finished/Pasture-Finished: An animal is considered “finished” when its natural growth has slowed enough for it to start putting on fat; this is the stage at which animals are slaughtered for meat. Grass-finished animals continue eating grass until they reach this stage, while most meat animals spend the last several months of their lives in feedlots, eating grain.

Heirloom: The term heirloom refers to a plant variety that has resulted in desirable qualities through natural selection, rather than a controlled hybridization process. Heirloom seeds are largely open-pollinated—meaning that plants will reflect the same characteristics as the parents—and are genetically distinct from the commercial varieties used in industrial agriculture. Heirloom varieties also have a reputation for being rare, unique, high-quality and flavorful. Local seed libraries seek to preserve genetic diversity by producing, saving, and distributing heirloom varieties.

Heritage Breed: Heritage Breed animals are traditional livestock breeds that were bred over time to develop traits making them well-adapted to local environmental conditions. There is no official definition of the term but heritage breed generally indicates a breed of livestock that has been bred over time and retained a number of biological attributes for survival and self-sufficiency. Heritage breeds often have slow growth rates and long productive lifespans outdoors.

Humane: Humane treatment of animals does not have a legal definition. However, the Certified Humane Raised and Handled program’s “Certified Humane” label indicates that the meat comes from animals that were able to engage in natural behavior, given ample space, and provided clean water and a healthy diet free of antibiotics and hormones.

Hydroponic: Hydroponic is a highly technical growing method where plants are grown without the use of soil but rather using an inert growing medium such as perlite, gravel, sand, vermiculite and more. The medium does not supply any nutrients to the plants so all nutrition must come from a nutrient solution. Growers adjust the strength and pH of the nutrient solution so the plants are receiving the correct amount of food and nutrition. Without soil, the plant is able to absorb its food with very little effort, thus preserving more energy for vegetative growth and fruit production.

Locavore: A person who is dedicated to supporting local farms and primarily consumes food that is grown, raised, or produced locally is called a ‘locavore.’

Natural: This term is most often used to describe meats and other goods that are minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients or colors.

Natural/All-Natural: This term is defined by the USDA only for meat products, which should be only minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients or added colors. As defined, the term is broad enough to cover most meats. The label may be added to products at the meat manufacturer’s discretion—the USDA does not investigate every claim. On produce and packaged food labels, “natural” is a marketing term, suggesting that the product was created without the use of artificial ingredients. Because the term is not regulated or verified by a third-party certifier for non-meat products, however, shoppers should be wary of the claim.

No Antibiotics: Industrial meat companies often add antibiotics to animals’ food to prevent disease caused by cramped and unsanitary conditions, a practice that is raising concern about the emergence of antibiotic-resistant illnesses in people. The USDA allows the label “no antibiotics added” or “raised without antibiotics” on meat or poultry products. However, the use of these terms is not verified by third party certifiers and is largely based on information given by the producers themselves, thus reducing the strength of such labels. The term “antibiotic free” is not defined or approved by the USDA.

No Hormones: Industrial meat companies use hormones to promote growth and milk production in cattle. The USDA regulates the label “no hormones administered” on beef, and federal law does not allow hormones in raising hogs and poultry.

No-Till Farming: A method of farming where the soil is not plowed or turned before planted. This method reduces erosion of both soil and nutrients, while increasing organic matter in the soil.
Organic: Crops and animals raised organically have not been exposed to synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, genetic modification, growth hormones, or antibiotics. All products labeled “Certified Organic” have been certified by the USDA. However, some farmers classify themselves as “uncertified organic,” meaning they follow organic practices but have not gone through the official process to be certified by the USDA.

Pasteurized: Pasteurization is the process of heating a liquid or food to eliminate pathogenic bacteria that may be harmful for human consumption.

Pastueurized/Homogenized: Pasteurization is the process of heating foods to kill pathogenic bacteria. The USDA regulates the use of this word in food labeling and in some cases may require certain foods to be pasteurized. Homogenization, when it refers to milk, is a mechanical process that breaks down the fat globules so that they are uniform in size and distributed evenly throughout the milk. Some milks are pasteurized, but not homogenized—that’s why they have a “plug” of cream at the top.

Pasture raised: Pasture Raised generally indicates that the animals have had continuous and unconfined access to pasture throughout their life. Animals may receive supplemental grain rations.

Permaculture: Permaculture is an approach to landscape design that employs principles of ecology, design, and sustainability to create an integrated system of food production. Permaculture methods are modeled after natural ecosystems and include aspects of organic farming, agroforestry, integrated farming, sustainable development and applied ecology in order to provide maximum benefit to the local environment.

Pesticide-free: Labels of “pesticide-free” and “no spraying” indicate that the crops were grown on a farm that is not necessarily organic, but does not apply toxic sprays to produce.
Raw Milk: Cow’s milk that is not processed or pasteurized before being bottled for consumption. Sale of raw milk is illegal in many U.S. states, and cheese made from this type of milk must be aged as a safety precaution. Proponents claim that raw milk has remarkable health benefits.

Slow Food: Slow Food refers to food that is healthy, consciously sourced, good for the environment and economically viable for the farmer. The Slow Food movement began in Italy in the late 1980s in an effort to preserve cultural cuisine. The Slow Food movement advocates for the consumption healthy and wholesome, local food.

Supply Chain: Supply Chain refers to the complex systems and processes that link farm to table. This includes production, processing, distribution, retailing, consumption, disposal, and everything in between. Farmers, equipment dealers, seed suppliers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers are all members of the food supply chain.

Sustainable: Food produced in a way that is mindful of well-being of animals, workers, and the environment, and the local community and does not deplete nonrenewable resources. Sustainable agriculture aims to leave the land in the same or better condition than it was found, encouraging a mutually beneficial relationship between the land and its occupants.

Transitional: A transitional farm refers to land that has been conventionally farmed and is now undergoing the transition to organic. It may also refer to transitioning one farm enterprise to another more lucrative model (such as dairy to beef).

U-Pick or PYO (Pick-Your-Own): Many local farms offer their customers the opportunity to harvest their own produce. Common U-Pick crops include apples, berries and pumpkins. This is a fun experience for all ages and a great way to meet your local farmer.

Urban Farming: Urban farming refers to the practice of farming within an urban environment or heavily populated town or municipality. Due to environmental limitations, many urban farms adopt creative farming methods including rooftop or vertical farming. Urban farming can involve everything from animal husbandry to aquaculture and beekeeping. Urban farming is often accompanied by other complementary activities such as processing, waste reduction, education, and improved access for low-income families.

Value Chain: The term ‘value chain’ refers to the collaborative relationship between each link in the food supply chain whereby all members of the chain are interested and invested developing sustainable business strategies and solutions that benefit each participant in the system. The term comes from “values-based food supply chain” which describes how shifts in consumer and community values drive changes in food supply chains.

Value-Added Product: Value-added refers to a raw agricultural product that has been enhanced to increase its value. This includes turning milk into cheese or yogurt, wheat into flour, fruit into jam, cabbage into kimchi and much, much more. Value-added products offer farmers a great opportunity to expand their market population and extend their growing season by offering shelf-stable or frozen products.

Vegan: Products labeled “vegan” do not contain any animal products, including meat, dairy, and animal byproducts.

Vine-Ripened/Tree-Ripened: Fruit that has been allowed to ripen on the vine or tree instead of being plucked early to “ripen” via treatment with ethylene gas during long-distance shipments to retail locations.

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