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The GoEO Toolbox: Glossary of terms


Drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria.

Why is it important to GoEO ?  

As much as 50% of the antibiotics used in the United States is administered to farm animals, in attempts to maximum growth and ward off numerous diseases that occur as a result of high-density factory farming.  When animals are continuously exposed to antibiotics, bacteria becomes antibiotic resistant.


Meat that comes from animals that were raised without the use of antibiotics.  Also labeled as “no antibiotics,” “no antibiotics administered,” “raised without antibiotics.”

Why is it important to GoEO ?  

Antibiotic resistant bacteria that is bred in the industrial farming system does not simply stay in those industrial farms.  Said bacteria can be transferred to the human population via eating contaminated meat, direct contact with the animals, or indirect contact with the animals (i.e. waste filtering through water supplies).  It is thought that antibiotic overuse in industrial farming, and subsequent antibiotic resistant bacteria, has led to antibiotic resistant human pathogens.

Antibiotic resistance:

Bacteria continually exposed to antibiotics often develops immunity, which over time results stronger strains of bacteria being developed.  As this process progresses, bacterial strains are created that are “antibiotic resistant” in that they are so strong that antibiotics cannot kill them.

Why is it important to GoEO ?  

Antibiotic resistant bacteria that is bred in the industrial farming system does not simply stay in those industrial farms.  Said bacteria can be transferred to the human population via eating contaminated meat, direct contact with the animals, or indirect contact with the animals (i.e. waste filtering through water supplies).  It is thought that the antibiotic overuse in industrial farming, and subsequent antibiotic resistant bacteria, has led to antibiotic resistant human pathogens.

Battery Cage:

Cages that are approximately 67 square inches large, meant for the keeping of egg laying hens.

Why is it important to GoEO ?  

The majority of egg-laying hens in the United States are kept in battery cages that are so small (equivalent to the size of a piece of printing paper) that they prevent the hens from spreading their wings.  Hens are not only restricted in their movement, but they are also prevented from pursuing natural behaviors such as nesting.  Such cages are usually stacked on top of each other, and frequently birds are injured or killed in their mesh wire.

Battery Cages are currently banned in Switzerland, and will be banned in all European Union countries by the end of 2012.  In the United States, the State of California has banned their use, to take effect in 2015.

Broiler Chicken:

Chicken raised specifically for its meat. 


A system of raising chickens without the use of cages.

Why is it important to GoEO ?  

Cage-Free systems do offer hens a slightly improved life than would have been afforded in a   battery cage systems, as cage-free hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests.  However, most cage-free hens still live in extremely high-density industrial facilities and are never granted the ability to go outside.  Furthermore, they are still debeaked in an effort to prevent self-mutilation due to stress.


The removal, generally via cutting, of part of the beak.  Debeaking is done to reduce the feather pecking and cannibalism seen among stressed, overcrowded birds in factory farms.

Why is it important to GoEO ?  

Debeaking is generally performed, without anesthetic, when the birds are 1 years old.  The process is thought to cause acute pain and prevents poultry from engaging in normal behavior such as preening.  It is generally accepted that proper management and care of poultry prevents feather pecking and cannibalism, without the need to resort to the painful debeaking option. 

Downed Animal:

Farm Sanctuary

A downed animal, also known as a “downer” is an animal that cannot stand due to disease or injury.  Currently a USDA ban exists which prevents the slaughter of downed cattle for human consumption.  However, similar bans do not exist for other commonly farmed species such as pigs and sheep.

Why is it important to GoEO ?  

Not only are downed animals frequently treated in a cruel and inhumane manner in an effort to ensure farm profits, but there are also dangerous ramifications of meats from ill animals being used for human consumption as downed animals have a higher risk of health issues such as E. coli and Campylobacter (which causes bacterial food poisoning).  Prior to the regulatory ban on the use of downed cattle, there was well documented evidence that downed cattle were frequently being slaughtered by plants that subsequently sold their meet to the Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program.

E. coli:

Bacteria found in the lower intestine of endotherms (warm blooded organisms).  Generally, most strains of E. coli are benign to humans.  However, certain strains, most notably O157:H7, can cause food poisoning when ingested.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

E. coli is an intestinal bacteria, which means that contamination occurs when food products come into contact with fecal matter.  Studies have shown that as much as 69% of beef and pork, and 92% of poultry has been contaminated with E. coli.  Part of the reason that there is such a high prevalence of fecal matter is that during the high speed slaughtering and processing of meat in industrialized agriculture feces can be transferred from animal hides (dirtied via accumulation of feces in feedlots) to the meat products.  In contrast, meat raised on pasture is generally cleaner and the risk of E. coli is significantly lessened.


Johnson, JR, Antimicrobial-resistant and extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli in retail foods, J Infect Dis. 2005 Apr 1, 191;(7), 1029-31.

Factory Farm:

Also known as a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (“CAFO”), a factory farm is a large-scale industrial facility which houses food animals at an extremely high stocking density in order to maximize profits, whereby the animal is treated as a machine. The main products of factory farms are meat, milk, and eggs to be used for human consumption.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Factory farming is responsible not only for animal suffering and numerous documented cases of animal cruelty, but also for a high contribution to global warming, and the spread of bacteria that is often harmful to human health. According to the Pew Environmental Group, the CAFO model relies on three interlinked practices in order to maintain/increase profits:

• Maximize the number of animals squeezed into the least amount of space and require the fewest number of employees to provide care.

 • Administer continual doses of antibiotics to the animals to prevent the diseases prevalent in their close-quarters housing.

 • Minimize the disposal cost for the substantial volume of animal waste produced by the facilities.

Farrowing Crate:

Prior to giving birth, sows are moved from Gestation Crates to Farrowing Crates where there is slightly more space to allow the sow to lie down to nurse, and “troughs” on both sides in which the piglets can nurse.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Industrialized farmers often claim that the use of farrowing crates is for the protection of piglets who may be crushed when sows (weighing up to 600 pounds) lay down.  However studies have shown that there is not a higher mortality rate when farrowing crates are not used.  Use of such crates prevents sows from being close to their piglets in a natural manner.


Scientific Veterinary Committee, Commission of the European Communities.  (1997). The welfare of intensively kept pigs (XXIV/B3/ScVC/0005/1997).

Foie gras:

This specialty food product is made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been purposely fattened, generally by force-feeding, in order to increase the liver's size and fat content.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Typical production of foie gras involves a process known as gavage, which consists of force feeding via a small plastic tube inserted down the animal’s throat.  This process is continued in such a manner as to cause the liver to expand until it is approximately 6-10 times larger than normal. Although foie gras is considered a delicacy, force-feeding animals in such a manner is animal cruelty.

The force-feeding involved in foie gras has been outlawed in several countries, including Germany, Denmark, Italy, Norway and Poland.  California has also banned the production and sale of foie gras from force-fed geese (starting 2012); similar legislation is also pending in New York.

Forced Molting:

Process used to induce higher egg production by which egg laying hens are purposely starved and given no water for 10 to 14 days, in order to shock their bodies into molting. 

Why is it important to GoEO ?

The practices involved in forced molting are an inhumane attempt to maximum profits.  Purposeful starvation of animals would violate the anti-cruelty laws of almost all States were farm animals not excluded from such statutes.

Free range:

This term generally refers to poultry that is not confined to cages and are granted access to the outdoors.  However, this term has almost no meaning when trying to determine quality of life. 

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Industrialized agribusiness profits from consumer beliefs that purchasing “free range” products is helping to promote ethical treatment of animals.  This is in fact, not the case.

For egg-laying hens there are no USDA regulations regarding the use of the free range label.  What this means is that many products that sport the free range label come from facilities where hens are kept in high-density enclosures with only a single exit leading to a small outdoor enclosure.

For broiler chickens, the USDA defines free range to mean that the bird has some access to the outdoors each day.  This could be as little as five minutes.

Genetic Manipulation:

Factory farms have selectively bred animals to grow abnormally fast, large and to produce more milk and eggs than their systems can sustain. Chickens grow so rapidly and large for example that their bones cannot support their bodies, resulting in crippling deformities.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Most non-factory farms seek to raise heritage breed animals who’s genetics have not been manipulated by the CAFO system. Heritage breeds are now very rare, having largely been replaced with industrialized breeds. 

Gestation Crate:

A 7 foot by 2 foot metal enclosure in which sows (female breeding pigs) are confided during pregnancy.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

The majority of sows in the United States spend most of their adult lives in gestation crates which are barely larger than the sow’s own body and prevent the sow from turning around or comfortably lying down.  Studies have shown that sows kept under such conditions display depression among other abnormal psychological reactions to stress. 

Gestation Crates are banned in Denmark, Sweden and the UK.  They are to be banned in all EU member states after 4 weeks of pregnancy.  In the United States, such crates are banned in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, California, Maine, Michigan and Florida.


Scientific Veterinary Committee, Commission of the European Communities. (1997). The welfare of intensively kept pigs (XXIV/B3/ScVC/0005/1997).


Cattle raised on a diet of grain. 

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Cattle are ruminants designed to eat roughage such as grasses.  The grain diets fed such animals in industrialized agriculture practices are done so in an attempt quickly fatten the animals in order to maximum profits.  However, cattle fed a high grain diet are more likely to become ill, increasing the need for regular anti-biotic use.

Grain Finished:

During the last 90-160 days of life, some beef producers fatten their cattle via the use of a grain-based diet in an attempt to create fattier “marbled” meat. 

Grass Fed:

Currently the USDA has a voluntary labeling program that allows products to be USDA verified as Grass Fed if the animals were raised on a lifetime diet of 100% grass and forage and if the animals have access to pasture during the growing season. 

Grass Fed is sometimes used interchangeably with Pasture Raised, but this is not always the case.  As the USDA GrassFed label only requires the animals to have access to pasture during the growing season, it is possible for the animals to spend months in confined areas.  Grass Fed Beef is also permitted to receive antibiotics and growth hormones.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Ruminants are natural grass eaters, and their bodies are not equipped to process the grain diets they are served in the factory farming system.  As such, meat from grass fed animals is generally healthier and is considered to be lower in fat and higher in nutritional content.

Grass Finished:

During the last 90-160 days of life, some beef producers fatten their cattle via the use of a grain-based diet in an attempt to create fattier meat.  Grass Finished cattle, however, are fattened on grass only.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

As mentioned previously, cattle are natural grass eaters and meat from grass fed and finished animals is generally healthier and is considered to be lower in fat and higher in nutritional content.


Industrial turkey vs. Heritage breed turkey

Traditional livestock breeds that were generally used before the rise of industrial agriculture, in which a few highly specialized breeds, such as Holstein Dairy Cows and Angus Beef Cattle, are used to maximum profits.  As industry has focused on the propagation of few breeds many heritage-breeds, which were bred to be hardy and healthy, died out.

There are a few heritage-breed focused farms throughout the United States, and their practices are generally considered not only to promote genetic diversity, but also to be sustainable and organic.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

With the advent of industrial farming, many heritage-breeds that created a diverse genetic population across farms have died off, leaving a less varied population of animals within the farming system. Furthermore, sustainable farming practices that went with the breeding of heritage-farming animals are also dying off with the animals themselves.

Hormone Free or No Hormones Administered:

The USDA has banned the use of “Hormone Free” on all meat products.  Instead the USDA allows the use of the label “No Hormones Administered” which requires a showing that no hormones have been used in the raising of the cattle used.

It should be noted that the use of hormones is not permitted in pigs or poultry so labels on these products are unnecessary.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Hormone use in meat products has been implicated in an increase of human illnesses.  It is safest to consume products raised without these hormones.


The USDA states that “natural” meat and poultry products can contain no artificial ingredients or added color and can be only minimally processed.  Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.  The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").

Why is it important to GoEO ?

A product being labeled “natural” has no bearing on the way the animal was raised or the diet the animals were fed prior to its slaughter.


Organic meat and poultry must be fed only organic feed (containing no animal by-products) and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics.  The animals must be allowed outdoor access, with ruminants being given access to pasture.  The amount, duration and quality of outdoor access is undefined.


Indicates that an animal was raised on a pasture where they are able to graze freely on a diet of grass. 

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Pasturing animals allows the animals to lead less stressful, more healthful lives which results in meat products that are lower in fat and cholesterol as well as higher in vitamins and Omega 3s.  Furthermore, pasture-raising of animals is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than its industrial counterpart.


Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, also called recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST), is a genetically engineered hormone used on dairy cows to artificially increase their milk production.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Studies have shown that cows injected with rBGH give birth to an increased number of deformed calves, and more frequently fall victim to bacterial infections.  Furthermore, studies have also shown that cows given milk production hormones are more frequently malnourished and susceptible to disease.  rBGH has been implicated in causing some cases of breast, colon and prostate cancers.

rBGH use is not approved in countries such as Canada, member states of the European Union, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.   Certain United States corporations, such as Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks have pledged to use only dairy products from farms that do not use rBGH.


New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program Veterinary Resource. 'Diagnosis of Mastitis and Diagnostic Methods for Investigating Udder Health Problems.

Hansen, Michael, Jean M. Halloran, Edward Groth III, and Lisa Y. Lefferts, Potential Public Health Impacts Of The Use Of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin In Dairy Production: Prepared for a Scientific Review by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, September 1997.

Epstein, Samuel, What’s In Your Milk, August 2007 (Trafford Publishing).

Shark finning:

The barbaric removal and retention of shark fins and the subsequent discard at sea of the carcass. The shark is most often still alive when it is tossed back into the water. Unable to swim, the shark slowly sinks to the bottom where it is eaten alive by other fish.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Finning is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of sharks every year. Finning is hugely wasteful – throwing away 95% of a valuable protein source should not be an option when all sharks are endangered. Refuse to eat in restaurants that serve shark fin soup or any other shark products and do not shop in any grocery stores that sell shark .


Slaughter is a process that takes place far from public view, and one that few know very much about. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) requires all packers selling to the US government to provide anesthetization or instant stunning by mechanical or electrical means prior to the killing of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine and other livestock, except in the case of kosher slaughter. 

Why is it important to GoEO ?

The HMSA does not protect the more than 9 billion chickens, 260 million turkeys, 27 million ducks, and 6 million rabbits slaughtered each year in the U.S. Some humane certifiers like Animal Welfare Approved require humane slaughter for species not covered under the HMSA and proactively work with farmers and slaughter plants to advance the welfare improvements and viability of this technology. Humane farmers often have difficulty finding smaller, local slaughterhouses that adhere to their standards and when possible try to have an onsite slaughter facility (only allowed for animals not covered under HMSA). Mobile slaughterhouses are not yet readily available but many humane farms are pursuing this as it allows for more humane oversight and eliminates the need to transport animals.

Sustainable Seafood:

Seafood is sustainable if it does not jeopardize the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Numerous fish species have been over-fished to the brink of extinction, with the United Nations estimating that 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are over-exploited, overfished or depleted.  Destruction of these fisheries can lead to habitat destruction as well as pollution of our world’s water bodies due to detrimental changes in ecosystems.


FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2010.


Almost all farm animals are transported at least once in their lives.  Animals are moved by motor vehicle, sea vessel, railway or aircraft. Long haul transportation (longer than eight hours) is common and poses significant risk to animals due to water and food deprivation, exhaustion, jostling and piling, over-heating or exposure to cold and hot temperatures. (In the US animals can be transported for up to 28 hours without food, water or rest.)  Trucks are so overcrowded that animals are unable to rest, and may trample or fight with one another in search of space. The risk of injury is particularly high during loading and unloading, when electrical prodding and other brutal handling methods are often used to move fearful and disoriented animals. The consolidation of the meat industry over the past few decades has resulted in fewer slaughterhouses, forcing animals to endure longer drives.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Even under the most controlled conditions within the industry, transport is stressful. Journeys involving animals should be as short as possible.  Animal Welfare Approved and other humane certifiers put a maximum time on transport.  Also, many humane farms have on-sight slaughter facilities making transport unnecessary.


Farm Sanctuary

A specialty product which consists of beef from calves less than 16 weeks of age.

Why is it important to GoEO ?

Veal Calves are generally taken from their mother immediately after birth in an attempt to produce the “tastiest meat.”  Many such calves are raised in crates which are designed to restrict movement in order to soften muscle.  These crates create extreme stress and calves raised in such a manner often present with abnormally high disease rates.

Veal Crates are currently banned in all member states of the European Union.  In the United States, Arizona, Colorado, California, Maine and Michigan have all banned the use of such veal crates.  New York and Massachusetts are currently considering similar bans.  Such bans, as well as consumer support for them, has created great incentive for veal producers to invest in free raised veal.


A person who forgoes all animal products and by-products not only in their diet but also in terms of lifestyle (clothing, footwear, cosmetic products etc).


A person who abstains from eating meat, poultry, and seafood.  Subcategories of “Vegetarian” include “lacto-ovo vegetarian”, which is someone who forgoes eating meat but still consumes dairy products and egg, and “pescetarian,” which is someone who forgoes eating read meat and poultry but continues to eat fish.