Glossary

Biodynamic Agriculture: Biodynamic Agriculture views a farm as a living organism of sorts.  By emphasizing and supporting a farm’s intricate cycles and processes it aims to create an organic farming method that is sustainable.  The farm is viewed as a self contained entity, sustainable practices are used to foster the farm’s health and survival.  Biodiversity is an important element of these practices and is encouraged for the farm’s wellbeing.

CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.  A CAFO refers to animal feeding facilities (usually used in industrial food production) in which enough animals are kept in a small enough space to create a potential environmental hazard.  Once a facility is designated as a CAFO by EPA guidelines, they are subject to regulation.

CSA: Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a system in which a community or group of individuals pledge to support a (usually organic and small) farm in exchange for a regular supply of their harvest.  A person gives the CSA a certain amount of money and might also commit to volunteer some time working on the farm.  In return the farm gives each member a box of harvested vegetables (and/or meat or dairy depending on the farm) at weekly or monthly intervals.  This way, the farm is guaranteed investment and the members are supplied with fresh, seasonal food.

Eco-Kosher: Eco-Kosher is a movement that combines traditional kosher laws with social justice concerns.  Eco-Kosher food might need to have fair wages for workers or use sustainable agriculture techniques in order to be certified by certain kosher organizations.

Food miles: Food Miles refers to the distance food is transported.  More local food will have fewer food miles.  The distance that food travels is one factor in how environmentally friendly it’s considered.

GMO: Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMO’s are organisms (including food) that have been genetically engineered.  In the US, GMO’s and products that include GMO’s are not labeled as such.

Kosher: Kosher (also kashrut) is Hebrew for “fit”.  It is the set of Jewish dietary laws that dictates not only what kinds of food can be eaten, but how animals must be slaughtered and what foods can be eaten together.  All fruits and vegetables are kosher, though they must be bug-free.  A kosher animal must have cloven hoove and chew their cud.  Kosher fish must have both fins and scales.  Kosher food is classified as meat, dairy, or parve (neutral).

Local Food: The Local Food Movement is part of the sustainability movement as it tries to promote and support regionally based farms.  Local food aims to remove the middle-man in food purchasing by creating direct consumer-farmer relationships, for example at farmers markets.  Local food aims to support small scale and family farms by buying local produce when it is seasonal, thus also trying to reduce “food miles” and environmental impact.  CSA’s are a great way to eat more locally.

Organic Food: Food that is farmed without the useof synthetic pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides.  The practices employed and natural “purity” of food varies widely from farm to farm but generally falls under that definition.  As well, often the food cannot be a GMO (genetically modified organism).  The US Department of Agriculture supervises organic certification in the US.

Permaculture: Permaculture is a system of agriculture that mimics natural ecological cycles.  By recycling “waste” and minimizing work, permaculture seeks to create sustainable land use.  Natural processes are all employed to get as much out of land as possible while restoring it continuously, not degrading it.  Weather, animal, plant and other cycles are all part of this process.

rBGH: Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is a hormone that is injected into dairy cows in order to increase milk production.  There are concerns that rBGH negatively affects the health of cows, causing problems such as mastitis.  There are also concerns about its effects on humans who consume the milk though there are studies by various groups with different results on this matter.

Shechita: Shechita is the slaughter of (kosher) animals according to Jewish tradition.  If an animal is not “shechted” properly, or if it is unhealthy prior to shechting, it is not kosher.  Shechita is performed by trained “Shochets” using a special knife which cannot have any nicks or imperfections.

Sustainable Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture is a strategy of farming in which the ultimate goal is to create and nourish a food production method that will allow land to flourish rather than degrade.  Sustainable agriculture aims to use natural processes and biodiversity to raise environmental quality while still providing quality food in sufficient amounts to both feed people and create profit for the farmer.  Implementation of sustainable practices varies from farm to farm.

To suggest additions to the glossary, please e-mail foodeducation@hazon.org.