2021 Export Data Shows Increased Demand for U.S. Pet Food Worldwide


PFI’s Betsy Flores, senior vice president of public policy, discusses the  growing global demand for U.S. pet food and how PFI works to gain access to export markets. 


The numbers are in and data show that U.S. dog and cat food exports reached record numbers in 2021 and surpassed more than $2 billion in value. This represents a 20 percent increase over 2020 numbers and, notably, a doubling of growth since 2016. These export accomplishments are thanks to years of work across the industry to promote new market opportunities and reduce existing barriers to trade. Both America’s pet food makers and pets around the world benefit from the increased export of safe, complete and balanced products, especially as our relationship with pets continues to evolve and strengthen thanks to the power of the human-animal bond. What is helping to drive this increase? Below, we detail some of the policy and trade factors that are impacting this impressive growth.

1.) Science-Based Trade Agreements and Global Standard-Setting Works

PFI has long advocated for science-based free trade agreements between countries that allow for the exchange of ingredients and finished products. With tariff-free trade agreements such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), pet food makers have more certainty about market access and regulatory provisions and can better plan and provide products in important international markets. For example, with the USMCA entering into force on July 1, 2020, U.S. pet food saw a 17 and 61 percent increase in product sales in Canada and Mexico, respectively, in the subsequent year.

PFI also supports the consistent application of scientific standards in different regulatory requirements around the world. As countries and governing bodies align on safety and nutrition standards, pet food makers can depend on continued and predictable access. That’s why PFI is proud of the Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations (GAPFA) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) for collaborating in setting key international safety standards for pet food. Following expert input from GAPFA, newly-revised OIE standards now included science-based recommendations that recognize the safety of certain cooking practices for extruded dry pet food and heat-treated poultry meat products (including pet food) in a hermetically sealed container and will allow for the continued and uninterrupted international trade while supporting global public health.

2.) Market Access and Development Activities Benefit Pet Food Makers

To successfully grow exports to international markets, it’s important to first ensure that these countries and regions are ready for U.S. pet food, both through a trade perspective and in consumer demand for pet food. That’s why PFI participates in programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP). MAP is a grant program administered by USDA that helps promote U.S. agricultural commodities and products worldwide. PFI’s involvement in MAP serves to remove barriers to trade, promote U.S. pet food, increase interaction with local veterinarians and veterinary students, and conduct outreach and educational programs for pet lovers.

When reviewing the list of the top 10 export markets in 2021, PFI has had a MAP presence in nearly all of these markets, indicating a powerful return on investment for pet food makers and success in creating opportunities and demand for U.S. agricultural products. PFI will continue to strategically study future countries and regions for additional market access and development.

3.)  Opportunities Abound in China

One important addition to the list of top 10 export countries for U.S. dog and cat food is China, which appeared as the fifth largest market with a value of more than $72 million. This is in large part thanks to the Phase One Agreement (POA) signed between the United States and China, which greatly broadened the market access for U.S. pet food to China. Before the POA, the Chinese market was effectively closed to the U.S. and limited the ability of Chinese pet lovers to access American pet food. However, thanks to work of USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR), the POA allowed for greater access and ability to export certain American products, including pet food, to China. There is still great opportunity ahead in China thanks to the country’s large, middle-class population who may seek safe, complete and balanced pet food from the United States. Internal research conducted by PFI found that the U.S. could see additional $300 million in American pet food exports with full market access.

An Advocate for America’s Pet Food Makers

PFI will continue to be an advocate for the export of U.S. dog and cat food to countries around the world. This not only helps to ensure that pet lovers have more access to nutritionally balanced food produced under America’s rigorous regulatory requirements, but also supports American agriculture and manufacturing. We look forward to working with key government agencies such as USDA and USTR to help America’s pet food makers and dogs and cats worldwide.


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