Have you ever heard of “SOLE” food before? Neither had we, so we rallied our team of real food experts to tell us all about it and more than 300 other terms, phrases and catchwords related to sustainable foods and farming. Begin your search by clicking on a category below to narrow the field or browse by alphabetical listing. Now you won't have to think twice the next time you're deciding between “free-range” and “organic” eggs at the farmers' market.
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See Industrial Agriculture.
Agricultural Runoff —
Also known as non-point source (NPS) pollution, agricultural runoff can be any pollutant, such as sediments, excess nutrients, pathogens, concentrated animal waste or agricultural chemicals, that is transported to nearby waterways through water runoff or soil erosion. Runoff can seriously degrade the quality of both ground and surface water, including wetlands and sources for drinking water, such as wells, aquifers and reservoirs. The EPA reports that NPS pollution from agricultural runoff is the leading cause of water quality degradation in lakes and streams in the United States. This kind of pollution can be minimized though agricultural practices, such as cover cropping (to reduce soil erosion), composting (to capture and contain nutrients from animal manure), organic farming and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Also referred to as farming, agriculture generally includes any cultivation of the soil, dairying, raising and harvesting of agricultural commodities or livestock. The term also refers to the production of vegetables, fruit, herbs, dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, seaweed, honey and maple products. Agriculture refers to the production, processing and marketing of commodities and value-added products from plant crops and animals.
Agritourism is an activity (e.g. pick-your-own, tasting, touring, etc.) that occurs in an agricultural setting, such as a farm or ranch and is open to public participation. In some instances, agritourism involves assisting with animal care or food production and may include an overnight stay on a working farm. The goal of agritourism is generally education as well as enjoyment.
Agroecology is a comprehensive, holistic approach to developing sustainable food systems that connects scientific principles and the knowledge of ecological systems with agriculture and the cultivation of food. Use of agroecology can improve the sustainability and efficacy of implementing alternative agriculture and food safety, in addition to the management of animal welfare, soil biology, waste management and wildlife habitat. It can also inform broader concepts, such as ecosystems, resource conservation, ethics, biodiversity, social justice and community health.
Allergen-free foods generally do not contain any of the following common allergens: wheat, gluten, milk, casein, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and yeast.
American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) —
The ACUPCC is a commitment to sustainability undertaken by a network of colleges and universities across the country. Using a framework for tracking and project support, member institutions commit to eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions within a self-determined timeframe. The ACUPCC requires member institutions to complete an emissions inventory, form a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality and provide regular public reports on their progress.
American Grassfed Certified, American Grassfed Association (AGA) —
American Grassfed Certified is a non-governmental certification system for meat from animals raised on a grass-based diet. Animals certified by the American Grassfed Association only consume forage from the time they are weaned, and they cannot be fed grains or grain by-products. Certified animals are never treated with hormones or antibiotics, and sick animals that require antibiotics for treatment become ineligible for certification. Animals must also be treated humanely for the duration of their lives. Furthermore, they cannot be confined for more than 30 days per calendar year, and they must have unfettered access to pasture. AGA Certification is based on independent, third-party farm audits conducted by Animal Welfare Approved.
American Humane Certified, American Humane Association —
The American Humane Certified program provides third-party, independent verification that a producer’s care and handling of farm animals meets the science-based animal welfare standards of the American Humane Association. These standards stipulate that livestock be raised under humane conditions in an environment that limits stress, and must include the provision of fresh water, a healthy diet, sufficient space, proper facilities, shelter, a resting area and the company of the animals' own kind.
Animal Welfare Approved, Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) —
The Animal Welfare Approved program is a nonprofit, charitable organization that administers the Animal Welfare Approved label. This label verifies that participating farms are prioritizing each individual animal’s comfort and well-being by allowing them to live in the most natural state possible. The certification identifies specific standards for beef and dairy cattle, bison, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese and verifies that animals have been raised on pasture or range on a farm without dual production.
Antibiotic-free is also known as “raised without antibiotics” or “no antibiotics administered.” Meat and poultry products bearing this label notify the buyer that the animals were not administered sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics. Antibiotics may have been administered in the case of illness, however, no antibiotics can be present in the animal’s system at the time of slaughter or laying. Since this label is applied by the producer and not verified by a third-party, it can be an unreliable indication of antibiotic presence in animal products.
The term aquaculture generally refers to the keeping and harvesting of plants and animals in any type of water environment, including natural and built environments. However, the term is typically used in reference to the raising of marine and freshwater fish species, also known as fish farming. This is the fastest-growing form of food production, providing people around the world with an important source of protein and other nutrients. A variety of aquaculture techniques are used to raise freshwater and marine species, including pond culture, cage culture, raceway culture, recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and integrated fish farming. Although fish farming is often associated with environmentally harmful practices—particularly with regard to waste disposal—it has unique potential to be a sustainable method of food production, especially as new technologies arise and more people recognize the importance of environmentally responsible aquaculture.
Aquaponics is a combination of the concepts of hydroponics and aquaculture. It incorporates practices from both of these concepts, allowing the waste products from one system to serve as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for the other. In aquaponics, effluent (liquid waste) from fish tanks is circulated through a special irrigation system to feed plants grown in hydroponic beds. This is an excellent model for sustainable food production, and its popularity is growing on both small and large scales. Aquaponic systems can be purchased from a supplier or constructed by hand.
Artisanal, which is often used interchangeably with handcrafted or “artisan made,” is used to describe products created in a traditional, non-industrial and typically small-scale manner. Artisanal food products often display unique character, possess full flavors and contain high-quality ingredients.