US FOOD ANIMAL SPECIES CLASSIFICATIONS | en Español
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.
The seven major species are horses, dogs, cats, cattle, swine, turkeys and chickens.
Within this group, cattle
turkeys and chickens
are classified as MAJOR FOOD ANIMALS
based upon their use for human food production or consumption by humans.
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.
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.