We’re bound to come across some words that are commonly used in agriculture that can be confusing. I’ll do my best to keep a list here. If you come across something and you’re not sure what it means, let me know, and I’ll add it!
100% organic – Any food product that was produced entirely with methods that adhere to all the rules for organic production can use this label.
All natural – This label can be used if there are no artificial ingredients or added colors to the food, and it is minimally processed (processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the final product). The label must include a brief description of the word natural for that product.
Antibiotic – A natural or synthetic compound that is capable of killing a microorganism. For example, penicillin is a natural compound produced by a fungus that is capable of killing many kinds of bacteria.
Cage free – Regulated by the USDA, poultry raised as cage free must be “able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.”
Carnivore – An animal that primarily eats meat, such as dogs and cats in a wild environment, large cats such as lions and tigers, birds of prey such as hawks and owl, and other predators.
Free range – Also regulated by the USDA, poultry or poultry products labeled free range must be from birds that were ”provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle.”
Herbivore – An animal that only eats plants, such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, deer, elephants, and giraffes.
Hormone – A compound that circulates in the blood and has an influence on cells other than the ones that produce it. For example, insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas, circulates through the body in blood, and acts on many cells in the body to help them take up glucose for energy.
Humane – This label is not regulated. It can be used on any product, and has no real definition.
Made with organic ingredients – At least 70% of the ingredients in food products with this label must be produced following all the rules for organic food production. The processing methods must adhere to the organic processing regulations. The USDA organic seal can not be used on the packaging for these foods.
No added antibiotics – This label can be used if the farmers can provide documentation that no antibiotics were used during any part of raising their livestock.
No added hormones – This label can be used if the farmers can provide documentation that no hormone supplements (usually a small implant under the skin or an injection) were used during any part of raising their livestock. Hormones are not approved for use in poultry or pork. Poultry or pork products can use this label, as long as they also include the statement “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
Omnivore – An animal that eats plants and meat, such as most people, chickens, pigs, bears, raccoons, rats, and some types of birds and fish.
Organic – At least 95% of the ingredients in food products with this label must be produced following all the rules for organic food production. The remaining ingredients must not be commercially available in organic form.
USDA Certified Organic – This label can be used on a food product that was produced with methods that adhere to all the rules for organic production, and has been inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Vegetarian fed – This label is not regulated by the USDA, so there is no set definition for this term. It is commonly assumed that this means that the animals were not fed any type of meat or animal by-product.
Withdrawal date – Every medication that is approved for use in livestock has a withdrawal date. This is the number of days that must pass between the day the drug is administered and the day the animal can enter the food chain. For example, a withdrawal date of 10 days means a minimum of 10 days must pass between the administration of the drug and when the animal is slaughtered. These dates are based on testing for the amount of drug in the milk, meat, or other products being used for consumption.