Beads stacked against each other that spell out 'Made in America'

The Benefits of Dog Food Made in the USA

There has been an ongoing debate for years about dog food made in the United States versus dog food made in other countries. Some pet parents say U.S.-made dog food is the best, while others say it makes no difference.

In reality, other countries have different restrictions and standards than the U.S. when it comes to pet food, so understanding the differences is key. In this article, we’ll cover the impact on the quality and safety of dog food when it’s produced in the U.S. and when it’s not.

The Importance of Dog Food Origin

As noted above, the country of origin can affect the quality and safety of dog food. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pet food. They require that all animal foods be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.

Generally, the United States and the European Union have similar standards and regulations when it comes to animal feed and pet food. In fact, some of the E.U.'s policies are stricter than those of the U.S.

On the other hand, one of the countries with regulations that differ the most from the U.S. is China. While there are regulations for pet food in China, the country has less stringent safety and quality standards than many other nations.

While pet food companies around the world have experienced recalls over the years, the most detrimental was the recall of 2007.

At this time, inspectors found melamine in food, treats, rawhide, and other edible pet products imported from China. Animals who ingested contaminated cat food and dog food experienced illness, kidney failure, and, in some cases, death.

These recalls of pet foods made in China continued past 2007. Because of the possible contamination issues in pet food from China, it’s safest to avoid pet food produced there. As a general rule, pet parents may wish to opt instead for food sourced and produced in countries with stricter standards for quality and safety.

Top Advantages of Choosing a Dog Food Made in the USA

Now, let’s dive deeper into why dog food made in the USA is often a safer choice for your pup.

High-Quality Ingredients

As noted, because of tighter restrictions, dog food made in the U.S. will often be of better quality. High-quality ingredients can support a more nutritious and holistic diet for dogs.

To identify whether a food or treat has high-quality ingredients, check the pet food label and look for things like:

  • Animal-based protein as the first ingredient: This includes chicken, beef, lamb, salmon, whitefish, etc. These will provide your pup with high-quality protein, antioxidants, and amino acids. Insect-based proteins are also good, but vegan or vegetarian food options aren’t ideal for dogs, as they require high-protein diets.

  • Minimally processed grains and carbs: Look for organic oats, flaxseed, barley, sweet potatoes, and quinoa, like in this Whole Grain Veggie & Fruit Base Mix from The Honest Kitchen.

Strict Regulations

Pet food manufacturers in the U.S. must follow stringent regulations and standards to ensure safety and nutritional adequacy. Beyond the general FDA guidelines covered above, there are more specific rules that dog parents may wish to keep in mind when evaluating and selecting dog food.

  • The 95 Percent Rule: Any ingredients listed in the product name (e.g., Beef Dog Food) must make up at least 70% of the total product, minus any added water.

  • The 25 Percent Rule: For “dinner” style pet foods (e.g., Salmon and Brown Rice Kitty Platter), any ingredients listed in the product name must make up at least 10% of the total product, minus any added water.

  • The “With” Rule: Any ingredients listed using the word “with” (e.g., Chicken with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes) must make up at least 3% of the product, minus any added water.

  • The Flavor Rule: If the food mentions a flavor (e.g., Chicken-Flavored Dog Treats), there’s no minimum amount of that ingredient required, but it does have to be in the product.

  • Human Grade Rule: In order to meet this standard, all ingredients in the product must be fit for human consumption. In addition, the product must be manufactured, packed, and held according to regulation 21 CFR 110 of CGMP.

More Transparent Supply Chains

A final advantage of choosing dog food made in the USA is that the supply chains are more transparent. This allows consumers to more effectively trace the origin of each ingredient in their pet food, building greater consumer trust and confidence in the product.

Common Misconceptions About Dog Food

Pet food made in the U.S. can have immense benefits for pups, but there are also some misconceptions about dog food to keep in mind.

USA-Made Dog Food Is Not Universally Superior

While USA-made dog food has many advantages, that doesn’t mean every dog food produced in America is top-notch. Not all U.S.-made dog foods are high-quality, even if they do technically meet regulatory requirements.

Some U.S.-made dog foods include highly processed ingredients, such as meat meals, artificial preservatives, and low-quality grains that can hurt sensitive stomachs. That’s why it’s best to evaluate dog food on an individual basis, not simply on country of origin.

Not All Imported Dog Food Ingredients Are Harmful

Just as all U.S.-produced dog food isn’t universally superior, not all imported dog food ingredients are harmful. There are plenty of high-quality and nutritionally-dense dog food proteins and produce from other countries that meet the high U.S. standards, including:

  • Lamb from New Zealand

  • Salmon from Canada

  • Kangaroo from Australia

  • Venison from the UK

  • Duck from France

Additionally, ingredients sourced from known and trusted suppliers across the globe allow for top-quality produce and grain. You can read about our ingredients and sourcing practices here: Our Human Grade Ingredients | The Honest Kitchen

More Expensive Isn’t Always Better

The last misconception is that the more expensive a dog food is, the higher the quality. This isn’t always true, as there’s no correlation between price and quality. Some brands even charge a premium for what is actually low-quality food.

Instead, choose dog food by looking at the quality of ingredients and nutritional content. You can also research the company and its practices to determine if they’re holding themselves to the highest standards.

How To Choose Healthy and Safe Dog Food

Next, we’ll explore how to read ingredient lists, nutritional adequacy statements, and more so you can choose healthy and safe dog food for your pet. As you read, keep in mind that your veterinarian is a great resource to help you choose pet food that addresses your dog’s unique nutritional needs.

Reading Pet Food Labels

It can be tricky reading pet food labels, as they aren’t equivalent to human nutritional labels. But here’s a general format, according to The Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) requirements:

  • Product name

  • Brand name

  • Species the food is for (dog, cat, etc.)

  • Quantity (how much food is in the container)

  • Guaranteed analysis (minimum and maximum amounts of key nutrients)

  • Ingredient list

  • Statement of nutritional adequacy (more on this later)

  • Feeding directions (how much and how often)

  • Guarantor (manufacturer’s name and address)

Ingredient Lists

The best place to start when choosing dog food is the ingredient list. First, look to see if the label says where the ingredients came from, as certain countries, such as China, are at higher risk for contaminated ingredients than others. Contaminants could include heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and mycotoxins. As you read, keep in mind what we touched on above: Not all imported ingredients are harmful!

Next, look at the first ingredient on the list. Pet food labels, like human food labels, list ingredients in order of how much is in the product, from most to least. As noted earlier, if the first ingredient isn’t a high-quality animal-based protein, it’s probably not an ideal food.

Third, assess the ingredient list for legume-based proteins, like peas, lentils, chickpeas, and dry beans. While some of these ingredients are okay and can be part of a nutritionally balanced dog food recipe, it’s important that they don’t make up the majority of the protein in the food — that should come from animal sources.

Nutritional Adequacy Statements

Another thing to explore on a dog food label is the nutritional adequacy statement. This statement indicates which type of animal and life stage the food is suitable for.

For example, some foods meet the nutritional requirements for growing puppies, while others are fit for adult dogs. All pet food must contain some kind of nutritional adequacy statement.

Third-Party Certifications

Pet food manufacturers based in the U.S. make roughly 9.8 million tons of pet food each year, so ensuring all that food is safe and nutritious is a large feat. This is where third-party certifications come in.

Before a new dog food goes on the market, pet food manufacturers work with a third-party lab to test their products. This ensures they are safe and align with the nutritional statements on their labels. So, when evaluating dog foods, look for third-party certifications from reliable organizations like:

  • The FDA


  • USDA Organic

  • World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) — This organization offers voluntary testing that goes beyond AAFCO standards.

Package Phrasing

Finally, consider the phrasing on the dog food package. Some statements are necessary and helpful — as covered above — while others are simply marketing phrases that don’t mean much from a legal or nutritional standpoint. Here are some phrases you may see and what they mean.

  • Made in the USA: This means processing and final assembly occur in the U.S.

  • Made in America: This includes Americas outside of North America (Central America, South America), so it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the ingredients came from the U.S. or even that the product was made there.

  • Sourced in the USA: This means ingredients are grown and produced in U.S. soil, but the product might be processed somewhere else.

Embrace Nutritional Excellence with The Honest Kitchen

Now that you have an idea of what dog food manufacturing looks like from a local and global perspective, it’s time to explore an option for your pup.

If you’re wondering where The Honest Kitchen falls, you can rest easy knowing everything is made in the U.S. with globally sourced ingredients of the highest quality. The Honest Kitchen is committed to providing high-quality, human grade, USA-made food for all dogs — large breed, small breed, and everything in between.

Meet your pup’s wellness and lifestyle needs with wet dog food, dry food kibble alternatives, training treats, toppers, and more from The Honest Kitchen.

Explore The Honest Kitchen’s full dog food collection.

*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

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