What on earth are farmers talking about?

There they are: stood with wellies on, primed for any amount of mud, looking at the land and using a whole host of terms that retailers have been quick to adopt.

So do we need to pay attention to how our food is being described, or just get out the trolley and dash round the supermarket blithely ignorant?  That depends on your outlook regarding food and how it’s sourced.  Here’s half a dozen you will most frequently see when doing the weekly shop.

Free range: for at least part of the day free range animals can roam freely outdoors rather than being enclosed permanently. Most frequently applied to poultry and pigs, consumers associate with free range as more animal-friendly farming.

Organic: in reference to organic meat the Soil Association states that “the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers is banned”. However, organic animals can still be administered drugs if so required, with the period for which they cannot be used to supply milk or meat double the standard time-frame for inorganic animals. Don’t think it’s 100% guaranteed that your meat has never seen a needle or chemical.

Red Tractor: for a while, a considerable number of consumers weren’t sure what the little red tractor logo meant. However, that does seem to be changing: if you see the red tractor logo on a pack of meat you can be assured it traces back to a UK farm that conforms to certain welfare standards.

Seasonal: does it still exist? International food trade means we can buy anything at any time of year but there are some foods grown in the UK that you really should buy when they’re in season. Asparagus, strawberries (although their season is almost the entire year now) and spring lamb are three to definitely search out when in-season.

Rare Breed: the UK has a very rich history of farm-animal-breed diversity. However, history also saw a push for profits and standardisation resulting in many breeds becoming undesirable and almost extinct. Thankfully a dedicated band of farmers have worked to save and retain these historic breeds, now classed as rare due to their limited numbers. Rare breed animals are sold for meat and are often attributed with better flavour, health benefits and less fat.

Zero Grazing: humans have altered the genome of Holstein Dairy cows by 22 percent in the past forty years but one thing that hasn’t changed is they’re still rather partial to fresh grass.  Zero grazing means that rather than taking the cows to the grass, the grass is taken to the cows which are housed in specially designed units.

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