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What You Need to Know About Pet Food Labeling

Labeling Pet Food Isn’t As Easy As It Sounds – And Here’s How

Whether you’re thinking of entering the pet food business, or you’re already in the pet food business, you may already know that the regulations for pet food labeling are no walk in the park with your furry friend.

As you may or may not know, pet food labeling is highly regulated – just like human food. Pouch_of_Gourmet_Dog_FoodNot only do you have to create labels that will entice your customers to purchase your product, but you also have to follow really intense guidelines, or you’ll be left chasing after your own tail.

Naming Your Pet Food

First, let’s start with the first step to product labels. Obviously, you need a name for your product, but how do you name it? What will be enticing? What won’t be misleading?

Naming your product can be one of the most daunting tasks a business owner will face. You have to come up with a name that will advertise your product correctly as well as one that will stick with your customers. In the pet food business, not being misleading is a huge deal. It’s almost up there with your product being lick-the-bowl good.

Ingredients and Pet Food Names

The ingredients in your product are extremely important. In fact, if you couldn’t come up with a clever name for your product, you could choose the safe option, which is naming it based on the ingredients inside. However, if you choose to take this route, then you have to follow very precise regulations. These regulations are set so that you don’t falsely promote your product, and so your customers are completely sure of what they’re purchasing.

There’s something in the pet food labeling business called the “95% Rule,” which requires that products are named after an ingredient that composes 95% of your finished product. For instance, if you wanted to name your product “Chicken for Dogs,” then your product would have to be 95% chicken (minus the percentage of water in the chicken.) Remember: this rule applies to the first ingredient you wish to name in your product.

If you have multiple components in your pet food, then you must name the ingredient that has met the “95% Rule.” If your product does not contain meat, or if the highest percentage of an ingredient is not meat, then you have to include whatever you have the largest amount of as the first ingredient in your pet food’s name.

There is also a “25%” or “Dinner” Rule, which calls for the named ingredients to add up to less than 95% of the entire product (not including water for processing). You would have to follow these guidelines if you wanted to name your product something along the lines of “Lamb Dinner for Dogs” or “Tuna Dinner for Cats.”

“Veterinarian Approved”?

It sounds good, right? Using the term “Veterinarian “Approved on your label makes perfect sense. If a veterinarian approves of your product, then obviously you have an advantage over your competition. It’s a foolproof plan, really – but it won’t work.


Veterinarians don’t have the power to “approve” your pet food products. Only federal agencies who specialize in the approval of products can do that. But don’t let this put a damper on all your hard work, because there are other ways to snatch a potential customer’s eye as they’re scoping out the pet aisle.

Veterinarian “Recommended”

Remember those toothpaste commercials? Almost every toothpaste on the market today is described as“dentist recommended.” And yes, it may make you roll your eyes, but admit it – you are left with a positive feeling. “Hey, my dentist wants me to use it? It MUST be good.”

So, what does this have to do with pet food? It’s simple. Would you rather buy the brand that simply makes its own quality claims, or purchases the product that is “Veterinarian Recommended”? We all know the answer to that one.

But what does it take to get that on your label?

You simply have a survey of veterinarians about your product. The number of veterinarians that you have to survey will depend on what type of “food” your product is (ie. a snack, a meal, etc.) If your product is a snack or treat, then the number of veterinarians you should survey should be less than the amount surveyed if your product is intended to be a meal.

So, basically:

  • Snack/Treat → fewer vets surveyed
  • Meal → more vets surveyed

Veterinarian Formulated

When you want to include the term “Veterinarian Formulated” on your label, you only need one veterinarian to have been part of the formulation of your product. So, if someone with a license to be a vet works on your product’s formula, then you are totally in the clear to state “Veterinarian Formulated” on your label.

Bottom Line

Here’s what you need on your label:

  1. Product Name
  2. Intended Species
  3. Quantity Statement: How much product is in the container; the net quantity statement must appear in the bottom third of the primary display panel.
  4. Guaranteed Analysis: For most products, guarantees should be given for the minimum percentage of crude protein, the minimum percentage of crude fat, the maximum percentage of crude fiber, and the maximum percentage of moisture.
  5. Ingredients: a section of the label containing a list of the ingredients in the product.
  6. Statement of Nutritional AdequacyGourmet_Cat_Food

If You Want More… This post is only a snippet of all the regulations on pet food labeling, so there are more regulations that you have to follow when labeling your pet food. If you are or plan on getting into the pet food business, I strongly recommend that you use these resources to find out how to label your pet food properly:


Good luck with all your pet food labeling endeavors!


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