How to Ship Pet Food

Learn the best services for sending pet food (whether frozen, canned, or packaged) and how to save the most money on these types of shipments
how to ship pet food
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Pet food is a big business, and companies like Chewy, Nutro, and Sundays have made it possible to order it and receive it at your doorstep anywhere you are in the country. Outside of these major operations, there are a ton of opportunities for online retailers to sell all kinds of pet food…and if you fall into this category, this article is for you. No matter whether you’re sending frozen raw beef, canned chow, or bagged pellets, this guide is all about how to ship pet food, how to properly package these shipments, and how to save the most money doing it. Let’s dig in!

Table of Contents

Are You Shipping Frozen Pet Food?

Whether your pet food is frozen will determine how to pack your shipment properly and which services you should use. If you’re shipping frozen food, you should opt for an expedited shipping service to ensure your package makes it to your recipient before its contents spoil. When shipping with USPS, the fastest service available is Priority Mail Express; for UPS, the fastest service is Next Day Air. These services are the most expensive ones that USPS and UPS offer, but the speed is what you pay for, and most delivery occurs within one business day after you hand the package off at your local Post Office or the UPS Store.

Outside of USPS and UPS, FedEx provides specialty refrigerated and cold packaging for sending frozen items, which makes them a popular choice for individuals and businesses shipping temperature-sensitive perishables. FedEx also offers expedited services that see packages delivered one business day after you drop them off. However, FedEx isn’t as prevalent at providing discounts on their labels through shipping software partnerships as USPS and UPS are…so, if you use them, you’ll end up paying way more to ship your packages than you would otherwise have to. We’ll elaborate on that more in a moment!

The Shipping Carriers & Services to Consider for Saving Money

If your pet food is canned or packaged, reaching your recipient as quickly as possible may not be the priority. Instead, you can save money by choosing a slower service, such as USPS Ground Advantage or UPS Ground. Opting for the most affordable shipping services will make the most sense for your business, since shipping costs tend to be the biggest eaters of margin for most online retailers.

Priority Mail Cubic is a “Secret” USPS Service Perfect for Sending Small & Heavy Boxes

Canned pet food can get pretty heavy, even though it doesn’t require too much space inside of a cardboard box. Shippers of heavy canned pet food should also consider USPS Priority Mail Cubic, which is a specially discounted service whose prices are based on your package’s outer dimensions and not its total weight. Since the box’s weight doesn’t affect the shipping cost, Priority Mail Cubic is the perfect service for sending small and heavy boxes such as packages of canned pet food.

To qualify for Priority Mail Cubic rates, your box of canned pet food needs to meet the following guidelines:

  • No single dimension on your box can exceed 18 inches
  • The total weight of your package can’t exceed 20 pounds
  • The total volume of your package can’t exceed 0.5 cubic feet

If your box falls within the three above guidelines, you’re good to go!

Pro Tip: You’ll never find Priority Mail Cubic as your local Post Office. In fact, most postal workers won’t even know about this service if you bring it up to them! Instead, you’ll need to access these specially priced cubic rates through online shipping software companies that sell discounted USPS postage…which we talk about at the bottom of this article.

Properly Packaging Your Box

The way you should package your box depends on the type of pet food you’re sending. Below, we’ve listed some basic guidelines to follow in the case of sending frozen pet food, canned food, and bagged food items.

Frozen Food

When sending frozen pet food, the main priority is using the right packing material which will keep the items from spoiling. Some popular packing materials for frozen food shipments are frozen gel packs, styrofoam sheets, and even dry ice. Here are some other tips that will help your pet food stay frozen during transit:

  • If possible, place the food in an insulated foam cooler on top of packaging your shipping box with insulated liners
  • Line the inside of your box with absorbing materials such as towels or rags to account for any leakage/moisture buildup during transit
  • Gel packs keep food between 32º and 60º Fahrenheit, while dry ice is the best material for keeping food frozen
    • Before including dry ice in your box, familiarize yourself with the USPS protocols for sending dry ice, as well as the steps UPS requires you to take
    • Both carriers have different guidelines for shipping dry ice; for instance, UPS lets you include up to 5.5 pounds of dry ice per shipment without any special contracts or Hazardous Material shipping papers, while USPS restricts you to only using Ground Advantage if you’re sending more than 5 lbs of dry ice in a box
  • Don’t include regular ice in your box! Regular ice is heavy and melts easily, which will dampen your package and actually increase the chances of your frozen pet food spoiling en route to its final destination

Canned Food

Compared to sending frozen pet food, shipping canned food is simple. The food already has a built-in protective layer with the can, so all you need to do is load it up into a sturdy cardboard box and secure it with packing tape. To keep your costs as low as possible, you’ll want to opt for the smallest box possible…and it also doesn’t hurt to fill any empty spaces inside of your box with extra cushioning material, such as packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and/or crinkle paper.

Pro Tip: A good test to see if you’ve packed your box as tightly as possible is to pick it up and shake it lightly with your canned pet food inside. You shouldn’t feel the cans moving around at all. If you feel them moving around, you’ll either want to find a smaller box or add in more packing material in the box’s empty spaces.

Bagged Food

Like sending canned pet food, shipping bagged pet food is easy: simply put it in a box and you’re good to go! You’ll still want to ensure that the cardboard box you choose is snug around your items and as small as you can get away with. This way, that your shipping costs stay as low as possible.

Insurance Won’t Cover Perishables Like Pet Food

Even though some canned and bagged pet food can last for months at room temperature, these are still perishable items. Therefore, most shipping insurance companies won’t provide coverage for packages of pet food, since these companies specifically exclude perishables from their coverage policies.

Moreover, while services like USPS Ground Advantage and UPS Ground both automatically come with built-in insurance from USPS and UPS (respectively), this coverage doesn’t apply to perishable items. So, you unfortunately won’t be able to receive insurance coverage on pet food shipments from USPS, UPS, or from third-party insurance companies.

Save the Most Money on Pet Food Shipments with Shipping Software

No matter the kind of pet food you’re sending or which shipping service you choose, don’t go to the Post Office or your local UPS Store! You won’t save money, because you’ll end up paying retail prices like everyone else. Instead, use online shipping software to buy discounted labels from both UPS and USPS.

When you use online shipping software, you gain access to “secret” USPS services such as Priority Mail Cubic, which we talked about earlier in this article. On top of those secret services, you get to enjoy the deepest available discounts that major carriers typically reserve for huge commercial shippers. In some cases, these discounts can save you up to 86% off what you’d pay to ship the same box via Ground Advantage at your local Post Office. For UPS Ground shipments, you may even save up to 78% off what it would cost to ship the same box at the UPS Store!

There are a lot of different options for shipping software out there, and we suggest researching which one will net you the most savings when sending your packages. Some shipping software companies impose monthly fees, hidden charges, or minimums that you have to meet…and some don’t. Some of them also charge monthly subscription fees for you to access the discounts they offer, while some companies pass those discounts down to you for free.

Looking for the right shipping software for you?

To access the deepest discounts on USPS and UPS labels, check out our guide:

Choose the Best Shipping Software

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