So you've gone into the pet food treat business and discovered that state governments regulate businesses like yours? Well, it can seem pretty daunting when all you might have had in mind was selling a few dozen bags of home-baked dog biscuits through your local specialty pet shop. Your state regulatory agency is the ultimate authority on matters of registration, labeling and marketing, of course, but we can help you with the testing end of it at least. The next several paragraphsoffer an overview of your problem and the specific ways in which we can help.
Here's your basic plan of action:
- In order to market legally, you must register your product(s) with the appropriate state agency. And if you market in more than one state, you'll have to register in each state.
- Depending on the state you may be required to attach suitable labels showing guaranteed analyses. See the relevant AAFCO label requirements. If you're producing products with different recipes, you'll need to provide separate names and labels for each product.
- In order to figure out what guaranteed analyses to put on your labels, you need to have your product(s) tested for four key nutrients: moisture, protein, fat and fiber (you'll find our guidelines for estimating guarantees on another page.). Even if guarantee labels are not required in your state, you may be required to have your product tested and to maintain records of that testing. Since most state labs won't perform this service for you, you need to find an independent lab to do it for you.
- Label a plastic bag with your product name and/or sample number. If you write directly on the plastic, take care to use a permanent marker, such a Sanford Sharpie®.
- Put a 2 - 4oz sample (that's about two or three Oreo cookies worth) of your product in the bag, press the air out and seal it to prevent moisture gain or loss in transit. Zip lock bags are excellent.
- Write us a cover letter, on your company letterhead if you have one, requesting us to test for moisture, protein, fat, fiber. If you've got a printer attached to your computer, you'll find a handy cover letter form elsewhere which you can cut and paste into your word processor and print out (but don't forget to put your address information and sample identifications in the appropriate places in the letter first!).
- Make out a check to New Jersey Feed Lab Inc in the amount of $35.00 times however many samples you send and enclose it with your letter. If you have but one product to test, it's just $35.00 to cover all four tests (moisture, protein, fat and fiber), but if you have several products, you'll need separate moisture, protein, fat and fiber analyses for each one. Once you've used our services, by the way, it will no longer be necessary to prepay on future occasions; your willingness to prepay that first time will establish your credit with us.
- Don't bother listing your ingredients. They are totally irrelevant to our testing, although (depending on the state) you may need to put them on your eventual product label.
- Package it all up and send it off. Check our addresses elsewhere on this site. If it's only one sample, your most priceworthy service is First Class Mail by the United States Postal Service (they have an excellent rate calculator online). That should cost you less than $2.00 and get your sample to us in three days or less from anywhere in the US. And a small padded envelope can be purchased at the post office. If you're sending several samples, you should consider Priority Mail which is often a day faster than First Class and costs but $4.60 for up to two pounds anywhere in the US. Your post office has nifty folding, self-adhesive Priority Mail boxes in several sizes, too.
- Wait for your results. And if you use njfl.com, it won't be long either. In most instances less than two business days elapse from the time we get your sample to the time a certificate of analysis is typed and mailed. If there's an email address on your letter, we email that certificate to you (as a .pdf file) before we tuck it into the envelope, so your total turnaround will be 3 - 5 business days. If you're thousands of miles from New Jersey, you might think a lab closer to you will do it faster; we invite you to investigate, but doubt you'll find any lab faster than us. Or cheaper. Or easier to deal with.
- Keep a file of your test results. And if you need guaranteed analysis labels, consult our guidelines.
- Good luck. Running a small business isn't easy. We know.