How to Start an Organic Dog Food Business

by Nicole Manuel; Updated September 26, 2017
Cute puppy eating from its plate

Providing man's best friend with healthy, natural food can be a rewarding and profitable business. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, more pet owners are treating their dogs as part of the family and are willing to spend more on them than ever before. IBISWorld’s Dry Pet Food Production market research reported an annual revenue of $13 billion in 2014. Starting your own organic dog food business has its own challenges and additional costs associated with ensuring a high-quality, healthy product.

Labeling Organic Ingredients

Your organic ingredients can be as gourmet or as generic as you want, but within certain restrictions. To protect consumers, you are required to label your ingredients, with the most predominant ingredients by weight labeled before ingredients with a lesser weight per container. As a producer of organic dog food, certified label applications, inspections and costs will apply. You will need additional certifications and inspections if you decide to specialize in organic dog food for pets with specific dietary needs, such as gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, or diabetic feed.

Government Regulations on Ingredients

The Food and Drug Administration inspects dog food companies to ensure that the food is safe for canine consumption. The FDA also has guidelines on which food additives are "generally recognized as safe" to be used in dog food. The Code of Federal Regulations and individual state laws prohibit the use of unhealthy or potentially dangerous ingredients in animal feed, including dog food. According to the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials, Alaska and Nevada are the only two states without animal feed laws. Organic dog food must comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program's requirements for ingredient sourcing and handling, manufacturing, labeling and certification.

Organic Certification Process

To apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, you will need to file an application along with the accompanying fees. An agent will review your application to verify you comply with the regulations for organic dog food. An inspection of your facility will then be conducted to ensure that your ingredients and processes match your application and the agency's criteria. After the information is collected and confirmed as a match, a certifying agent will issue your startup its certification. For those who successfully pass certification, the USDA offers a certification cost share program that will reimburse 75 percent of your certification costs. To apply, contact your state agriculture department, file a W-9 or its equivalent, and submit proof of certification and an itemized invoice.

Saving Startup Money

To save your new business monthly rent and overhead, you can sell out of your house, online, through local shops on consignment, or at farmers markets and festivals. If you produce your dog food at home, you will also save on fees associated with inspections, and labor and machinery costs. Incorporating ingredients like brown rice for an organic whole grain or legumes for an organic, cost-effective protein can reduce the cost of your organic products. If you don't specialize in other dietary labeling, such as diabetic or no-grain, you can eliminate the costs associated with additional certifications. You can also lower your costs by opting for less expensive packaging.

About the Author

Nicole Manuel is a finance and economics writer with a degree in economics and more than six years of professional writing experience. She is also a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) known as The Personal Eco-nomist, who specializes in helping people live healthy, abundant lives on a budget.

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