Wildly Misunderstood Buzzwords of Agriculture (part 2)

A while back we shared our definitions and explanations of some of the buzzwords that were floating around out there about agriculture.  It was a big hit with some and a bit of a thorn for others.

The biggest thing that we hoped to illustrate was that agriculture is about choices.  Farmers and ranchers are making choices everyday and they have best interests in mind for the environment, the economy and society.  But choices always come down to whether or not the pros out weigh the cons.  This extremely complex and diverse industry is not black and white – it is all shades of gray.

So, here is Round 2 of our definitions and explanations with a little more focus and emphasis on food animal production.

Hormone-free:  This is a term that marketers began using to try and differentiate chicken and pork products.  The reality is that no hormones are used in the production of poultry or pork in the U.S.

Antibiotic-free: Antibiotic use in raising animals is the same as antibiotic use in humans.  It is used to treat illnesses to ensure the health of the animals.  It is closely regulated and can only be used by the prescription of a veterinarian.  No meat product sold for human consumption will have antibiotics in it because the animals will have gone through the necessary time withdrawal periods and other precautions required by the government.

Free-range: This generally refers to chickens that have access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day. But, most chickens prefer to stay close to water and feed which is located within the chicken house.  Shelters also serve to protect the birds from severe weather – hot or cold.

grass fedGrass-fed:  Grass-fed are those animals that have only eaten fresh grass or grass-type hay before they are slaughtered for human consumption.  This primarily refers to raising beef cattle.  Almost all beef cattle are raised on grass for the majority of their life.  Most cattle are put on a diet rich in grain for the last couple of months before they are harvested which adds extra weight and allows for the muscle fibers to become marbled (extra fat to increase taste).  Grain-finished cattle would be the opposite of grass-fed.

Factory Farm: Factory Farm is a term that is being applied to any large scale production of agricultural commodities.  For cattle, large scale is 1,000 or more animals.  The term incorrectly implies that the conditions that the animals are kept in are poor.  The term implies that most farms are owned by large scale corporations that sacrifice values to increase revenue.  However, most (96%) of farms are owned and operated by families.  With the use of technology and good management practices, those family farms have been able to increase the size of their operations increasing efficiency of production without sacrificing the conditions of the animals or the sustainability of land. Because of their size some of these family farms are considered factory farms.  A small scale production system would simply not produce enough to feed the growing world population.

biofuelsBiofuels: an alternative fuel source derived from biomass (or plant-based). Most people relate biofuels with ethanol – made from corn, or biodiesel – made from soybeans. However, new products are being used to make biofuel such as sugar cane, vegetable oils, switchgrass, wood chips, and even animal fats. This alternative fuel source has been around since the turn of the 19th century, but with wanting to free our nation’s dependence from foreign oil, along with the ‘green’ movement, biofuels are being looked at and used much more.

Don’t forget to review some of the terms from our previous post that cross over and apply to animals too.

GMOs, Biotechnology, Sustainable agriculture, etc.

What other buzzwords have you heard that relate to food animal production?

-Will

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