Glossary of terms

Here you will find definitions of terms used in resources on the Foodsource website. You will also find these definitions on the right-hand side within chapters. If you have any suggestions for new glossary items, let us know here.

2 (1) | A (12) | B (5) | C (16) | D (4) | E (8) | F (12) | G (4) | H (3) | I (6) | L (5) | M (12) | N (6) | O (4) | P (9) | R (8) | S (9) | T (1) | U (2) | W (4) | Y (1) | Z (1)

Processed food

In public understanding, the concept of processed food is often used loosely to refer to mass-produced ready-to-eat foods such as instant flavoured noodles and soda drinks. The concept, however, also refers to one of the four categories of the NOVA classification, which classifies many of these foods as ultra-processed foods. Within NOVA’s processed food category are minimally processed foods to which one or more processed culinary ingredient has been added, and which have been further modified by processes such as smoking, salting and canning. Advocates of NOVA understand processed foods to be produced primarily to increase the durability of minimally processed foods and to enhance the taste and appearance of such foods. Examples of processed foods include freshly made breads, pickled vegetables, salted nuts, smoked meats and canned fish.

Public procurement

Public procurement refers to the acquisition of goods, services or work by public bodies such as government agencies, hospitals, and schools, or by state owned enterprises such as railways or energy providers. Such spending can represent a substantial amount of taxpayers' money and of gross domestic product in many countries, and so how it is spent is a matter of public interest. Beause of this, changing public procurement is often seen as a way in which to influence business practices.

Radiative efficiency

A measure of ‘greenhouse strength’ for different greenhouse gases, defined as the change in radiative forcing per change in atmospheric concentration of a gas (in Watts per metre square per part per billion; W m-2 ppb-1).

Radiative forcing

The measure of how different factors (including greenhouse gases) change the balance between incoming and outgoing energy in the atmosphere. Expressed as the change in energy balance per unit area (in Watts per metre square; W m-2) over a given timeframe – typically contemporary compared to preindustrial conditions.

Reconstituted meat

Reconstituted meat is a paste- or liquid-like meat product that is produced from ground meat. Fat and excess water are separated from the meat using a centrifuge or an emulsifier (a machine used to produce the meat into a fine and homogeneous paste or liquid of a desired thickness). Reconstituted meat is mostly used as a basis for pet food and as a supplement in some meat products for human consumption (e.g. chicken nuggets and some sausages).

Reduction fishery

A fishery that catches wild fish to be converted into fishmeal and fish oil (often to supply the aquaculture sector), rather than catching fish for direct human consumption.


Reformulation refers to changes food manufacturers make to the production recipes of processed and ultra-processed food products to improve their nutritional profile. Examples of reformulation include replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame or sucralose) to reduce the food’s energy content or reducing the amount of salt or saturated fat in a food product.


In the context of food system sustainability, the concept of resilience refers to the ability of the food system to cope with and recover from socio-economic or environmental shocks and pressures. A resilient system has a certain degree of toughness and is able to bounce back against or adapt to disturbances. A resilient food system, for example, is able to keep providing food or other outputs such as livelihoods for farmers, drinking water, and biodiversity conservation under conditions of drought, a drop in food prices, war, climate change, the spread of virus in plants or animals, and so on. Resilience can be thought of at different scale levels. For example, what may be considered as resilient on a national level may not be understood to be resilient at a farm level. While some see resilience as synchronous with sustainability, others point out that a resilient system may also be one that resists needed transformation; an unsustainable status quo may in fact be resilient to change.


is a mammal with a four-compartmented stomach which enables it to acquire nutrients from plant-based food such as grasses, husks and stalks. Examples of ruminants include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, giraffes and camels. After swallowing, microbes in the ruminant’s rumen (its first stomach compartment) begin fermenting the food. This process generates fatty acids (nutrients which the ruminant absorbs through its rumen walls) and methane, which the ruminant eructs or burps. Through this process, ruminants are able to digest coarse cellulosic material which monogastrics and people cannot. Methane emissions from ruminants are a significant source of greenhouse gasses from ruminant-based livestock systems.


Ruminant animals are distinguished by their specialised digestive system and include species such as cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and camels. In particular, their large rumen stomach allows plant matter to be regurgitated, chewed again, and for microbes to ferment it. This breaks down plant matter into digestible molecules that can be absorbed by the animal and allows ruminants to be fed on coarse plant matter such as grass, whereas other species such as pigs and chickens cannot.

Selective breeding

Selective breeding refers to the deliberate human practice of choosing which plants or animals to breed together, based on specific characteristics, in order to selectively enhance these characteristics (and their genetic basis) in their offspring.

Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis

Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis are an integral part of any modelling process. Sensitivity analysis varies the possible values of input variables to a model in order to understand the difference that these assumptions make to results and conclusions that can be drawn. Uncertainty analysis investigates the potential effects of lack of knowledge or potential errors in the model design.


Silting refers to the transport and deposition of sediment on the riverbed, which changes the dynamics of the water flow and can affect aquatic ecosystems.

Specialist species

is a plant or animal species that is able to thrive in only a limited variety of environmental conditions, or that has a limited diet. Unlike endemic species, populations of the same specialist species may be present at different geographical locations around the world.


Stunting is a medical condition where childhood growth and development is impared as a result of inadequate nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psycosocial stimulation. Children are definied as stunted if their height for their age is abnormally low. Its effects can lead to an under developed brain, poor cognition and educational attainment, as well as higher risk of nutrition related chronic diseases in later life.