What Does “Made in USA” Really Mean? Defining Made in America

What does “Made in America” really mean?

The regulations concerning labeling of products “made in USA” are confusing at best. When you are checking labeling for country of origin, you have probably come across terms like “assembled in the USA” “distributed in USA” or “made in USA of foreign components.” The uncertainty of these claims, as well conflicted public feeling about products partially made in the USA has made buying made in America seem even more difficult.

What Does Made in USA Really Mean

Here is the rundown on the fine print.

The rules that qualify a product for an official “made in USA” label are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC relies on a definition that a made in USA product be made of ” all or virtually all ” components made in America. The factors for qualifying American made claims include the percentage of manufacturing costs incurred in the US, how far removed any foreign components are from the finished product, and the site of final assembly. The FTC publication on complying with the made in USA standard suggests a minimum of 75% of total manufacturing costs be incurred in the USA for a credible made in America label. The Buy American Act defines a product as made in America for the purposes of government procurement if it is comprised of at least 50% American made components.

Trying to make sense of these vague standards.

One solution posed is having third party certifications. Made in USA Certified performs audits of the full supply chain of a product. If the product is found to be completely made in America, it is awarded the “made in USA certified” seal for use on it’s products. To try to determine where a product was made yourself, look for the terms “manufactured in USA” and “made in USA.” “Distributed by” does not give any indication of where the product was made. The only products required to disclosure country of origin are automobiles, textiles, wool and fur. These items are issued a registered identification number (or RN number). You can enter this number into the RN Search Tool to see if country of origin information is available for your item. Lastly, you can call the company’s number and ask where a product was made.

7FAM tag made in USAWhat you consider to be really American made.

Some who support the made in America movement only look to purchase from companies manufacturing all their products in the US of 100% American made components. Others take a more lax approach, supporting companies that manage to make a majority of their products in America, or use foreign components in products manufactured in America.

The vast majority of American companies rely on 100% outsourcing for the manufacturing of their products, so I feel that any company that strives to keep jobs in America by producing products in the US is worthy of our support . Manufacturing exclusively in the US poses a financial burden to corporations, and the barriers faced and steps made to overcome these obstacles are at the heart of the made in America movement’s story. If we support corporations making even a portion of their products in America, we are helping to support their efforts to move manufacturing back to the US and produce American made products.

How do you define a product made in USA? Do you try to buy from companies manufacturing exclusively in America? How do you decide if a company’s efforts to manufacture in America are legitimate? What does an American made product mean to you?


  1. says

    You know I so appreciate your stand behind American made products. Here in Memphis many of our manufacturing plants have closed. As a result once burgeoning city neighborhoods are flooded with poverty and government dependency. Manufacturing is such an important but all to often overlooked component to our economic health as a country. More importantly lives are changed for the better when blue collar jobs are created.
    Shannon Milholland recently posted..Saddle Up

    • says

      Shannon, thanks for sharing the story about your town. It a tragic tale that is happening all over the country. The good news is that things seem to be turning around, and there is a lot we can do using our power as consumers.

  2. says

    My heart ached as I continued to read how many US manufacturer’s were out-sourcing their goods to foreign countries, over the past twenty years. As Shannon, above, has commented, this has created “part of the problem” here in the USA, as jobs went overseas, with the manufacturing.

    However, I am so thrilled to learn, from my continued research, that US companies are BRINGING JOBS BACK TO AMERICAN, as these same companies are finding out that labor costs, tariffs, and transportation costs are rising, along with the quality of the products diminishing.

    Now, we can all STAND UP FOR AMERICA, TAKE AMERICA BACK, one purchase at a time,if we ALL DEMAND…and TAKE THE CHALLENGE…to BUY “MADE IN USA” products ONLY, which are quality, lead-free and contaminant free products, as they must meet US Standards of Manufacturing!

    Our Gutter Clutter Buster, LLC products, since concept in 2008, have been 100% Made In USA, for the sole purpose of “Keeping Jobs Here at Home” and giving our customers quality, “lead-free” gutter cleaning attachment tools for a Safer and Cleaning Method of doing a necessary chore that was once dangerous and dirty!

    How CAN WE THE PEOPLE CHANGE AMERICA???? DEMAND…from shop owners, manufacturers, and large corporations to bring bring their products and services BACK TO THE USA….

    “If, ever American spent just a $1 a day on Made In USA goods, it could create 1,000,000 new jobs in the USA” (ABC NEWS)…What’s not to like about this????

    • says

      Jean, the story of the business you have created with your husband is very inspiring. I love your commitment and passion for the “Made in America” movement. Your enthusiasm is contagious. Keep up the great work!

  3. Kenneth H Rice says

    My wife and I only buy made in USA products. It’s hard to do in the stores but online it’s not to hard.All our clothes come from All American Clothing Co and King Louie. We look at websites like Made in USA.com. Our vehicles are American made by American Auto Co’s like Ford and GM. So when my Wife and I go shopping In public or online, We put AMERICANS to work and are proud of it!! If everyone else did this there would not be a bad economy or unemployment.. Also lots of taxes to take care of our dept.

    • says

      Kenneth, It’s so great to hear about the quest you and your wife have undertaken. I have been surprised on my challenge to buy made in usa that it is easier than I thought it would be, especially on-line. I think it’s getting easier and easier as well. There are a ton of resources sprouting up. Thanks for visiting!

  4. says

    I like to buy clothing that says “Made in USA”, sometimes I will accept Manufactured in USA, but made from imported materials. I never buy made of US material and manufactured elsewhere. Regarding cars, it is much more difficult, just because it says Ford or GM does not mean it is an American car. Some models of Toyota are sometimes much more American than Ford. -Jack A
    Jack recently posted..Best “Made in America/USA” Websites

    • says

      Thanks for writing, Jack. I know the confusion takes a whole new level with cars, with classic “American made” cars being imported, and new Toyota factories opening up in the US. Just more issues to research!

    • says

      I agree totally about “American made cars”. Having worked for Ford for over 16 years I’ve seen my share of foreign made parts on cars of all brands. When buying a new car check out the “Country of orign label” that is on every new car. Most US made vehicles are really only assembled here using more than 50% foreign made parts. I’ve encountered OEM replacement parts from Israel to Bangledesh and other countries all over the world. Outsourcing is the cheapest way for auto manufacturers to save money and still claim “Made in USA”. Most people would be surprised at how many auto makers share outsourced parts sources. Unfortinately we can’t do much about it due to very few auto parts manufacturers in the US. I think the only real way to get companies back here is to raise import tariffs and for all Americans to accept lower wages in these companys. It may sound ludicrous but in reality it all relies on getting the American dollar value back to face value by good old fashioned economics. When minimum wage goes up the dollar goes down in value. It’s sad but true. I’d love to see $15.00 per hour minimum wage but I don’t want to pay $13.00 for a big mac……..

  5. Nadia says

    I support your point of view. We could overcome the recessionary period much faster if we relied on our products. Also the increasing level of unemployment could be reduced easily. I think now the right time to think about it.
    Nadia recently posted..How to Lose Weight in the First Trimester

  6. says

    Hi Sarah, thank you for visiting my blog Playful Decor! This is a great question especially since opening my new biz. At first I think my kids lights are M.I.USA because I’m putting them together. But, since the main light base is new and not made here I’m not sure I’d fit into the special category. It’s a tough call for biz owners. I’d definitely fill the “assembled in USA” category!

    As a consumer, if I see the label, it will sway me to buy it over one that is not made here, but I don’t specifically only shop for the label. For example, I won’t buy an item just because its made here if I don’t like it as much as an item made elsewhere.

    Also, there are several foreign car companies like Toyota, VW, BMW & Honda that have plants here so the workers and country both benefit. I recently saw on Shark Tank that nobody on the panel wanted to invest in a person’s biz because he wouldn’t take the manufacturing overseas to cut costs. I see both sides, but had he done that he could have put Americans to work in a distribution center here as well as marketing and all other aspects.

    SO….Sarah, question back to you is do I qualify to list my biz on your page? :)
    Nan @ Playful Decor recently posted..Children’s Nursery Lights

    • says

      Nan, thanks for visiting. I love your new Etsy shop, your work is adorable! It’s very interesting to hear the issue from the perspective of the business owner. There are so many barriers for producing a product 100% American made, even if they are completely committed to doing so. Your nursery lamps are handmade by you, so I think they would qualify for at least “assembled in USA.” I think you have a wonderful product and support your business model!

  7. Krista says

    I try to at least go for “assembled in the usa.” When I can, I buy handmade or local items. We need to buy as much USA-made items as possible.

  8. L says

    Such a great article!! This is important stuff. I worked for a clothing warehouse that put Made in America on everything but it just wasn’t true. The cloth was from one nation, the assembly in yet another. Getting it’s personalized tag was the only part that happened here.

    I don’t have a problem with foreign goods, if they are ethically and environmentally sound. But I have a real problem with how little manufacturing we do here anymore. This has played a huge part in the loss of the American dream I think. So I try to buy American, and local if possible.

  9. Becky VanGinkel says

    I love your blog! This is the first one I’ve come across (and I follow a lot of blogs!) that is based solely on supporting US Businesses! I want to thank you for that. I love to shop from small businesses, large businesses and local businesses that support the “Made In America” movement. I think it’s the only way to go! I would much rather spend the extra money to support ‘us’ than spending a few cents less and sending our jobs and money overseas! I love reading your posts and checking out the items you share!


  10. Aimee J says

    One of the reasons our country is in so much trouble is because we have gone from a country of creators to a country of consumers. There needs to be a balance and we NEED to bring back manufacturing jobs to the US. Thank you for your blog and for the awareness you’re trying to spread.

  11. Jill H. says

    This page makes me smile! Especially reading the other viewers responses and feedback! At first, when I would tell my friends and family that I no longer buy items if they do not say Made In USA – they thought I was nuts and “good luck”. Well, luck has definitely been on my side, because it’s NOT THAT HARD. We’ve become very lazy in this – shopping that is. It looks good to the eye / we put in the cart / we go to checkout / and go home. Not with me – Not Anymore! I actually enjoy spending a bit more time in the isles looking to make sure it says Made In USA. Knowing that I’m helping others to keep their jobs is HUGE to me. Let’s keep this going AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Mary Dailey says

    At one time, Whirlpool employed 6,000 people here in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Then, it was reduced to 2,000 gradually, and they were only making side-by-side refrigerators here, which are not selling, so last year, they shut down their doors for good and moved the plant to Mexico. 2,000 more people out of jobs in an already distressed area. The blue collar jobs are important, as not everyone has the money to go to college and even those jobs aren’t guaranteed. Thank you for this informative post.

  13. joe says

    To whom it may concerned,

    We have a company in USA. Now, there is a free trade zone in Shanghai(CHINA). I want to ask if we set a Subsidiary Company in free trade zone. We will use the material from USA and then assembled in the free trade zone of Shanghai, can we called our product “made in usa”?

    Look forward to your response

    Best wishes


  14. Richard says

    Great article. There are some industries here who rely on one or two basic materials to manufacture their product. The resources used are grown here right in the USA. Companies such as Louisville Slugger , or Carolina Clubs which make baseball bats are 100% made in America. However they are a one component product unless you include the finish. Labor intensive yes, but they do not need materials from overseas.

    Then you have companies like Convaid who make wheel chairs. It appears they use a few components. They are also made in the USA. Are they 100% made in the USA like the companies above with 100% made in america components? Who knows and why should it make a difference. They are keeping people here working…which means jobs.

    I postponed starting a new lingerie line for over a year. Why so I could dedicate more time to finding all the trimmings, fabric ect. that were made here in the USA. Well after extensive research I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to re focus. A lot of the fabrics we wished to use simply weren’t made here, but some were. So I was forced to look at the European market. The point is my lingerie is designed here, patterns, samples, and garments cut and sewn right here in the USA.. The fact that I have to use some European fabric does that mean my product isn’t made in America? I believe if we keep on the path to doing as much as we can here at home the tides will change, and in fact they are.

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  16. Chris says

    Made in America….. to me it means it was made with a great deal of care. Made with parts that were manufactured in America with the highest quality of materials and the highest level of workmanship possible, either through tried and true techniques that are the most accurate, or through the best technological advancements possible. It means that a corporation cares as much about the people it sells to, the people it hires, and the products it makes, as it does the bottom dollar. There’s no reason corporations NEED the lower prices of manufacturing in other countries, they just do it because they’re greedy. You can’t tell me a company who takes home 2.5 billion USD in PROFIT (after all expenses are paid, taxes are paid etc.) NEEDS that kind of extra cash. And that’s the low end of big business profit, most of them are well over 20-30 billion annually in profit. Why do we even want their business? Because they supply jobs at slave labor wages? Because they’ve broken the spirit of the country down enough that we’re desperate. 2 days without work will put most of the country on the streets, let alone 2-3 years of fighting to bring back small business. Well personally, I’d gladly go on the streets for a couple years if it meant seeing this country grow up and take a stand.

  17. Mari says

    Hi, can you please tell me labeled on the purina treats my dogs eat it states Proudly Produced in Dunkirk, NY does that mean that these treats are actually Made in America? Thank you!

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  23. says

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  26. Suzanne Zimmerman says

    I get so tired of seeing the labels of other countries on clothing. I find this to be true practically every where. I’m glad I came across this site today. I’m looking forward to seeing what all it has to offer regarding “Made in the USA”. Thank you

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  28. mark says

    There is much neglected in peoples comments here. I don’t blame people who are workers and consumers as they don’t have a whole world view like some others. Others who deal in international trade and specialized manufacturing know how reliant we are on one another, and how having an insular country is a road to nowhere. The job creation goes both ways. Firstly, for Americans to want to buy an American car with components from America, then they couldn’t afford it. While our Made in America products are with off-shore component parts, the more technical assembly AND the innovation and product development come from America. Also, our top 3 GDP exports and are all made with off-shore components – Caterpillar and Apple for example. Trust that our profit on that transaction from the Cost of Goods Sold is healthy to say the least. Conversely, when Toyota wants to sell cars to the U.S. people, they don’t export cars to the U.S., they export components and create jobs for us doing the assembly work and running major plants. It’s very easy to say ‘they’re stealing our jobs’, or what is really made in America?’, but it’s naive to think that there’s not a global economy out there and that the same people who are kicking themselves for not getting higher educations, are the same people who are relying on Walmart for their prices. America will always be an innovator and people can’t just apply idealism to insulate themselves and grow cynical. America’s very good at farming and producing food for example, should we keep it for ourselves instead of stealing peoples jobs in India and China who also make food? Actually, China specifically relies on U.S. food imports, but also has traditionally lived an agrarian lifestyle. The people are leaving the farms because the U.S. is exporting them food and are now forced to go live in the cities making component parts for the U.S. market (granted much of that is because young people like money and iphones). China worked as an agrarian country. I stumbled on this article because I’m trying to define if I can claim my product as ‘Made in America’, which I can because over 75% of my manufacturing costs will come from the US.


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