Overview of Regulations for Meat Products and Pet Food

California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) requires licensing of businesses, including retail food establishments, that make meat products for sale only direct to consumer.
Note: meat products sold for resale must be made at a USDA inspected facility.

Applies to: Meat products defined below that are made in retail food facilities including restaurants and grocery stores and sold ONLY direct to consumer.

Meat products requiring state licensing include any of the following:

  • Made with preservatives (potassium or sodium nitrate – so called ‘pink powder’)
  • Cured, Dried, Smoked or Rendered

Meat includes: beef, lamb, port, goat and poultry.

Establishments making these products must be licensed by CDFA and must have a Processing Inspector on site when the product is being made. Product formulation and label must be approved (part of application process). Licensed establishments will have a certificate from CDFA posted on site.


Pet food made with fresh or frozen meat must be licensed by California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA). Fresh or frozen pet food manufacturing is only taking big pieces of meat and making them smaller.

Processed Pet food, dried or semi dried must be licensed by California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Processed pet food is a chemically changed product (i.e. cooked, dehydrated).

Meat includes: beef, lamb, port, goat and poultry.

All meat and meat by-products used for pet food must come from an approved source (USDA inspected, state licensed pet food slaughter facility or approved import).

Pet food must be de-natured (i.e. addition of charcoal) or de-characterized (i.e. addition of ground bone) in some manner to make it no longer fit for human consumption.


CDFA License:

CDPH License:


This fact sheet was reviewed for accuracy by the Supervising Meat Inspector of CDFA Meat Poultry & Egg Safety division, July 2016.