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In the United States, animal species, excluding humans, are classified according to their intended use as either production animals or companion animals.

As illustrated in the classification schemes listed below, there can be overlap among various species classifications based on the intended purpose for use by humans. One important classification of animals by U.S. regulatory agencies is the classification as a MAJOR SPECIES versus a MINOR SPECIES. The major species group is comprised of seven animal species that are highly prevalent and in high demand in the U.S., whereas the minor species group includes all other (non-major) animal species.

Governmental regulatory agencies with oversight of animal species have authority to regulate many aspects of animal uses, medical care and husbandry depending on the intended use(s) or individual animal species. Companion animals, which include all species used for human companionship, entertainment, service, psychological support or other similar purposes, are subject to a lesser degree of government regulatory oversight compared to animals used for production. In general, production animals, which include animals (cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry (including egg-producing poultry), equine animals used for food or in the production of food, fish used for food), are subject to a greater degree of governmental regulation and oversight.
Major Species
The seven major species are horses, dogs, cats, cattle, swine, turkeys and chickens. Within this group, cattle, swine, poultry (turkeys and chickens) are classified as MAJOR FOOD ANIMALS based upon their use for human food production or consumption by humans.
Minor Species
Includes all non-human animal species that are NOT one of the seven major species. This group includes zoo animals, ornamental fishes as well as pets or companion species that are not major species. Within this group, there are many animal species (sheep, goats, catfish, game birds, honey bees, shellfishes, etc.) that are classified as MINOR FOOD ANIMALS based upon their use for human food production or consumption by humans.
Food Animals
Animal species that are raised and used for food production or consumption by humans. There are distinct and unique government regulations applied to Major Food Animals versus Minor Food Animals.
Animal species or classes that are used to create a food or food by-product that does not require slaughter, such as milk (also used to make cheese and butter), eggs and honey.