"Fodder" refers particularly to food given to the animals (including plants cut and carried to them), rather than that which they forage for themselves. It includes hay, straw, silage, compressed and pelleted feeds, oils and mixed rations, and sprouted grains and legumes. Feed grains are the most important source of animal feed globally. The amount of grain used to produce the same unit of meat varies substantially. According to an estimate reported by the BBC in 2008, "Cows and sheep need 8kg of grain for every 1kg of meat they produce, pigs about 4kg. The most efficient poultry units need a mere 1.6kg of feed to produce 1kg of chicken."[1] Farmed fish can also be fed on grain, and use even less than poultry. The two most important feed grains are maize and soyabean, and the United States is by far the largest exporter of both, averaging about half of the global maize trade and 40% of the global soya trade in the years leading up the 2012 drought.[2] Other feed grains include wheat, oats, barley, and rice, among many others.

Traditional sources of animal feed include household food scraps and the byproducts of food processing industries such as milling and brewing. Scraps fed to pigs are called slop, and those fed to chicken are called chicken scratch. Brewer's spent grain is a byproduct of beer making that is widely used as animal feed.