Animals and animal food (VAT Notice 701/15)

Find out which live animals and animal foods or feeding stuffs are zero-rated for VAT.


This notice cancels and replaces Notice 701/15 (March 2002).

1. Overview

1.1 What this notice is about

This notice explains which live animals (see sections 2 and 3) and animal foods and feeding stuffs (see sections 4 to 10) are zero-rated.

Paragraph 10.3 has been updated to include the liability of livery packages provided by special purpose stables.

1.2 Who should read this notice

The information is for:

  • farmers
  • animal breeders
  • livestock markets
  • animal feed manufacturers
  • pet food manufacturers
  • pet shop owners
  • owners of stables, kennels and similar establishments which care for animals
  • wholesalers and retailers of animal food

2. Live animals

2.1 Supplies of live animals that are zero-rated

You can zero rate the sale, hire or loan or supply of a part interest (a share) of a live animal provided it’s of a kind generally used in the UK, or yielding or producing food for human consumption.

Animal includes bird, fish, crustacean and mollusc.

2.2 Animals that are zero-rated

Examples of zero-rated animals are:

  • meat animals
  • dairy animals
  • poultry (except ornamental breeds), including those for egg production, see paragraph 3.1
  • honey bees
  • fish (except ornamental breeds and coarse fish), including those for production of edible roes, see paragraph 3.2

2.3 Animals that are standard-rated

Examples of standard-rated animals are:

  • bumble bees
  • ornamental birds and fish
  • racing pigeons
  • horses

2.4 Animals that produce edible meat but are standard-rated

Some unusual meat, for example kangaroo steak, may be sold as food in the shops, but kangaroos are not animals of a kind generally reared for food in the UK. Live kangaroos, therefore, are standard-rated.

2.5 Pets

Animals that will be kept as pets can be zero-rated only if they are of a kind that is normally used for human food production. For example, rabbits, other than ornamental breeds, are always zero-rated.

2.6 Animals kept for non-food purposes

Animals kept for non-food purposes can be zero-rated if they are of a kind normally producing food for human consumption. Sheep kept mainly for their wool, or bulls used for breeding are zero-rated.

2.7 Unfit live food animals

Animals which are removed from the human food chain because they are no longer fit for human consumption, for example because of disease, are standard-rated.

2.8 Embryos, eggs and semen for breeding

Embryos of species which are normally used for human food may be zero-rated if they are to be used for breeding.

Anything below the embryo stage is standard-rated.

Eggs and fish roes which are normally used for food for human consumption and are fit for such use are always zero-rated.

3. Birds and fish

3.1 Birds

Most breeds of chicken are zero-rated, as are game birds and ostriches. Ornamental breeds of birds are standard-rated.

The following breeds of ducks, geese and turkeys are zero-rated:

Type of fowl Breed
Ducks Aylesbury, Campbell (Khaki Campbell), Indian Runner, Muscovy, Pekin and derivatives and crossbreeds of these
Geese Brecon Buff, Chinese Commercial, Embdem, Roman, Toulouse and derivatives and crossbreeds of these
Turkeys Beltsville White, British White, Broadbreasted White, Bronze (Broadbreasted Bronze), Norfolk Black and derivatives and crossbreeds of these

3.2 Fish

Type of fish These are zero-rated These are standard-rated
Freshwater fish Eels, salmon and trout and others recognised as food for human consumption Bream, perch, pike, carp and tench
Shellfish Oysters, mussels, whelks Non food species
Fish for aquaria - All supplies
Fish used as bait Fish of a kind, and fit for, human consumption All other supplies
Ornamental fish, for example koi carp - All supplies

4. Food for animals

4.1 Food for animals that’s zero-rated

You can zero rate most food that is to be fed to animals (including birds, fish, crustaceans and molluscs) except:

General animal feeding stuffs are dealt with in more detail in section 5. Products with more than one use that are sometimes used as animal food are covered in section 9.

4.2 How to tell if a product is intended to be fed to animals

You cannot zero rate animal food simply because it was zero-rated when you bought it. You must hold it out for sale as animal food. Held out for sale includes the:

  • way you label, package, display, invoice, advertise or promote the product
  • heading under which the product is listed in a catalogue, web page or price list

5. Animal feeding stuffs

5.1 Types of product that are zero-rated

You can zero rate supplies of most commodities recognised as animal feeding stuffs by the trade and by farmers, that is:

  • straights
  • compound feeds
  • protein concentrates
  • supplements

5.2 Ingredients for animal feeding stuffs

Ingredients for animal feeding stuffs are zero-rated only if they’re feeding stuffs themselves. Components having no significant nutritive value, such as flavourings, appetisers, binders and colouring agents, are standard-rated even if they’re supplied as ingredients for animal feeding stuffs.

Probiotics, which act on the digestive system but have no nutritional value in themselves, are always standard-rated.

5.3 Nutritional supplements

Nutritional supplements for animals are zero-rated, irrespective of whether they will be added to normal feed or given separately. This includes:

  • grit (soluble or insoluble) for poultry or game
  • mineral blocks, mixes and licks
  • supplements and protein concentrates

Supplements designed specifically for pet species, or which are held out for sale for pets are standard-rated.

5.4 How a product with more than one use is treated

This depends on how it is held out for sale, see paragraph 4.2. Products that are zero-rated when sold as animal food are standard-rated when sold for:

  • pets, subject to section 6
  • wild birds, see section 8
  • bait (unless it’s food also of a kind fit for human consumption)
  • non-food use such as bedding or nesting materials or for packaging or thatching roofs

Section 9 also contains information on products with more than one use.

6. Pet food

6.1 The liability of pet food

Any animal food is standard-rated which is:

Fresh, frozen or chilled meat and fish products, for dogs or dogs and cats whether or not it’s packaged, is zero-rated if it’s not:

  • undergone any preparation other than mincing or dicing
  • held out for sale as pet food

6.2 Animals that are pet species

These animals are pet species:

  • cage birds
  • cats
  • dogs (except working dogs, see paragraph 6.4)
  • ferrets
  • goldfish, aquarium fish and pond fish
  • guinea pigs
  • hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice (except rats and mice bred specifically as laboratory animals)

6.3 Non-pet species kept as pets

Some animals that are not pet species may be kept as pets, such as:

  • chickens
  • horses and ponies
  • rabbits
  • reptiles
  • sheep

Their food can be zero-rated unless it’s packaged or held out for sale in a way that shows it’s intended for a pet.

6.4 Food for working dogs

A product which is claimed as being suitable for all breeds, size and age of dog is standard-rated.

If a specially formulated food is held out for sale exclusively for working dogs it will come within the scope of the VAT relief, unless it is biscuit or meal.


Dog food is standard-rated if it is, for example, for Dog food (other than biscuit or meal) is zero-rated if it is exclusively for
sheepdog breeds - Old English, German shepherd, Collie working sheep dogs of any breed
Labradors, Pointers, Retrievers dogs trained and used as gun dogs
Greyhounds racing greyhounds

6.5 Biscuit and meal for cats and dogs

All biscuit and meal for cats and dogs is standard-rated.

The terms ‘biscuit’ and ‘meal’ mean dry products either:

  • coarsely ground basic commodities
  • baked products consisting predominantly of cereal and fat and not providing all the nutrients required by the animal

7. Canned, packaged and prepared pet food

7.1 The significance of ‘canned, packaged and prepared’

You must standard rate canned, packaged or prepared products that are held out for sale as pet food, see paragraph 6.1.

7.2 The meaning of ‘canned’ and ‘packaged’

Canned or packaged means pre-packed for retail sale in any can, sealed bag, carton or other container of 12.5 kilograms or less.

If you simply put loose produce in a plain paper or polythene bag at the point of sale, it is not ‘packaged’. This applies whether the bag is filled after your customer has bought it, or ahead of time in anticipation of sale.

7.3 The meaning of ‘prepared’ as a pet food

Prepared means having undergone any of the processes listed in paragraphs 7.4 or 7.5 or similar processes.

7.4 Processes that specialise a product as ‘pet food’

Products, other than food for working dogs, see paragraph 6.4, and food for human consumption, which have undergone any of the following processes, are pet food and are standard-rated but they are held out for sale, the:

  • addition of colouring, flavouring, preservative or gelling agents, for example sodium metabisulphite
  • mixing or blending of ingredients to meet specific nutritional requirements of a pet species (for example, blending a mix of cereal products specifically for hamsters)
  • cooking of meats or meat products
  • mixing or blending of four or more meats, fish or fish and meat products

7.5 Other ‘animal food’ processes

Products which have undergone any of these processes are animal food but are standard-rated only if they’re packaged or held out for sale as pet food:

  • mixing or blending of different ingredients (other than those described in paragraph 7.4)
  • washing or polishing
  • cooking (except meat or meat products, see paragraph 7.4)
  • mincing, dicing and similar processes (except meat for dogs, see paragraph 6.1)
  • inclusion of additives

8. Bird food

8.1 How to decide which bird foods are zero-rated

The liability of bird food can depend on the type of bird it’s formulated for, the type of bird it’s sold for and how it’s packaged.

8.2 Cage birds

Cage birds, for example budgerigars, finches and parrots, are pets and therefore their food will be standard-rated if it has been:

  • prepared, for example special mixes and seeds compressed into blocks
  • packaged, see section 7, this includes packaged canary seed, millet sprays or seed and sunflower seed

8.3 Poultry and game birds

All food for poultry and game birds is zero-rated. This includes pigeon grit and pigeon food unless it contains ingredients similar to food for cage birds, see paragraph 8.2.

8.4 Wild birds, other than poultry or game

Any food which is both packaged and held out for sale for feeding to wild birds is standard-rated. As well as ordinary retail packages, see paragraph 7.2, special packs, for example, ‘bird nets’ of foods such as peanuts designed for hanging from a tree or bird table, are standard-rated.

Special mixes of foods for wild birds are zero-rated provided they are not packaged for retail sale, see paragraph 7.2.

8.5 Peanuts and other straights

Peanuts and other straights such as sunflower seeds will be standard-rated if they are both:

9. Commodities sometimes used as animal feed

9.1 Meat, offal and similar abattoir products

Most meat, offal and similar products from abattoirs which are for use in animal feeds are zero-rated.

Abattoir products are standard-rated if they:

  • are held out for sale for a non-feeding purpose, for example blood for fertiliser (normally recognisable by declaration of nitrogen or phosphoric acid content)
  • are used solely for a non-feeding purpose, for example hair, horns, hoofs, manure
  • are held out for sale as pet food and are packaged or prepared (see sections 6 and 7)
  • have undergone some further preparation beyond mincing and dicing, which would specialise the products to the pet food market (see paragraph 7.4)
  • are used exclusively in the preparation of pharmaceutical products, for example gall bags, glands, ovaries, and placenta

Greaves supplied in pieces of a size suitable for feeding to pets are also standard-rated.

9.2 Dead animals

Dead mice, rats and day old chicks sold for feeding to ‘exotic’ pets such as reptiles may be zero-rated unless they’re specifically prepared or canned or otherwise packaged as pet food.

9.3 Oils and fats

Oils and fats (including tallows) of a kind suitable for use in animal feeding stuffs are zero-rated unless they:

  • require further processing before becoming suitable for inclusion in animal feeds
  • are held out for sale for a non-feed purpose

Waste oil from fish and chip shops generally requires processing before it can be used as an animal feed ingredient, and is therefore usually standard-rated. But, a need only for sieving, decanting or heating does not disqualify the oil from zero rating.

9.4 Medicinal products and feeding stuffs containing medicines

Medicines are not covered by the zero rate even where they’re administered in an animal’s feed.

Some feeding stuffs incorporate medicines and the VAT liability is determined by the basic nature of the product. A product is zero-rated only if the addition of medicinal substances does not alter the essential nature of the product as a feeding stuff. As a general guideline, a product is standard-rated if it’s the subject of a product licence or marketing authorisation issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Veterinary medicines supplied to certain charities may be eligible for zero rating under a different relief, see How VAT affects charities (Notice 701/1).

9.5 Straw

Under an agreement with the main trade associations, ‘held out for sale for non-food use’ includes supplies to customers known to be:

  • market gardeners or other horticultural concerns which will obviously be buying the straw for use as composting material
  • industrial packers or other non-agricultural businesses (such as a brickworks) where the straw will obviously be used as packing material

Supplies to these customers will be standard-rated.

9.6 Grass and grazing rights

If you supply grazing rights for horses, sheep or any other grazing animals the supply is zero-rated as animal feed. But where grazing or other food forms part of a supply of care of an animal or group of animals, see section 10.

9.7 Examples of commodities usually zero-rated

The following are zero-rated unless they’re sold for a non-food purpose, held out for sale as packaged or prepared pet food or are packaged as food for wild birds:

  • cereal and cereal by-products including bran, sharps and similar residues
  • feed blocks
  • fish meal and fish residue meal
  • forage crops
  • ground oyster shell
  • hay and straw, see paragraph 9.5
  • hay and straw molasses
  • oilseed residue (except castor oil)
  • peanuts
  • rabbit food
  • specialised diets formulated specifically for laboratory animals
  • specialised diets formulated specifically for racing greyhounds (other than biscuit or meal)

9.8 Examples of commodities usually standard-rated

Examples are:

  • drugs, but see paragraph 9.4
  • single chemicals and minerals, other than salt, even when fed direct to animals
  • thatching material (for example Norfolk reed, wheat reed, or straw reed)
  • urea (unless specifically held out for sale for animal feeding purposes)

10. Livery and other care packages

10.1 Keep of animals

The supply of the keep of animals is generally standard-rated, but see paragraph 10.3. Even if you supply animal feed as part of the service of care, the full consideration for your service is standard-rated. The feed element cannot be treated as a separate zero-rated supply.

10.2 Stabling

If you allow an owner exclusive use of stabling (that is you allocate all or an identifiable part of the stabling for the sole use of his animals) this is either an exempt supply of a right over land or standard-rated if you exercise the ‘option to tax’, see VAT Notice 742: land and property.

You may zero rate separate supplies of feed (either as general feed or in the form of grazing rights) only when no element of care is supplied.

10.3 Livery services

These are services provided for horses in a stable that go beyond the right to occupy the stable.

They may include:

  • feeding or turning the animal out to graze
  • mucking out, spreading straw or other bedding
  • worming and clipping
  • grooming and plaiting
  • taking on any responsibility for the welfare of the animal, including arranging for veterinary treatment

They do not include those clearly identifiable separate supplies such as veterinary services.

You must standard rate the supply of livery services, including any food provided, unless the stabling is an exempt right over land, see paragraph 10.2, which you have not opted to tax.

If the supply of stabling is a right over land and you have not opted to tax it, the whole livery package is exempt unless it is provided by a special purpose stable. Livery packages provided by special purpose stables (such as race horse trainers, stud farms and stables involved in schooling horses or breaking them in) are standard-rated.

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Published 9 December 2011