Food Label Glossary

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Glossary of Terms for the FoodPrint Food Label Guide


A measure of how many types of living organisms there are within an ecosystem, from plants to wildlife and microorganisms, and often refers to the interaction between species.


The practice of removing or shortening the beaks from poultry to reduce injury from aggressive behaviors.


The painful removal of horns from adult animals. Some ranchers choose to dehorn livestock, as horns can be a risk to both humans and other animals, and as a protection to their investment.

Electric Prods

A cylindrical tool used in animal agriculture that carries an electrical current that, when administered to an animal, causes a painful shock meant to encourage movement.

Farrowing Crate

A special gestation crate for pregnant pigs to give birth. Has slightly more room for lying down so the sow can nurse the piglets once they are born.


Used primarily in beef production, they keep thousands of animals in constricted quarters, and in inhumane conditions, with the intention of getting the animals to gain weight as quickly as possible.

Feed Supplements

Compounds added to animal feed to fill a nutrient void and, in some cases, to speed growth or prevent disease. These supplements can be nutritional in nature or can be antibiotics or other drugs.

Forced Molting

Withdrawing food or water from laying hens in order to cease their egg production but then increases egg production and quality in subsequent layings. This controversial practice is banned in the EU but ubiquitous in the US.

Gestation Crate

A metal enclosure in which pregnant pigs are kept, to protect them and their unborn piglets from danger. These stalls are very small and offer no bedding, just slats for waste to fall through. Opponents consider them inhumane.


A GMO, or genetically modified organism, refers to any plant or animal which has had its DNA altered using laboratory technology to impart desirable traits.

Synthetic Fertilizer

Fertilizers made from inorganic compounds – usually petroleum-based — that help plants grow. While synthetic fertilizers give plants the nutrients they need, they can have many environmentally negative effects.

Manure Management

The process by which animal waste is collected, stored, treated and used in agriculture. Safe manure management is critical for the maintenance of clean water systems and for other environmental benefits.

Pasture Management

Refers to decisions about how to plant and manage fields and pastures in order to balance the feeding needs of livestock while also ensuring soil health and the ability of plants to replenish.

Rotational Grazing

When livestock are moved from one paddock (small area in pasture) to another to allow the pastures to rest and rebuild.

Sewage Sludge

The byproduct of treated wastewater, basically what’s left after water has been treated: the unwanted solids. This product is often sold and used as fertilizer for farmland.

Tail Docking

The controversial practice of removing an animal’s tail with the stated purpose of preventing injury, such as being stepped on, getting caught in dangerous places, getting chewed off by other animals during acts of confrontation, or to prevent infection.