Blue Buffalo is one of the most popular dog food brands on the market today. With their colorful packaging and claims of using only the finest natural ingredients, it’s easy to see why so many pet owners are drawn to their products. But are Blue Buffalo dog foods actually healthy for your canine companion? Or are there some potential downsides to feeding this brand?
This comprehensive review will examine Blue Buffalo’s ingredient quality, recall history, and nutritional value to help you determine if it’s the right choice for your dog.
An Overview of Blue Buffalo Dog Food
Blue Buffalo was founded in 2002 by Bill Bishop after his family dog Blue was diagnosed with cancer. Shocked by the links between poor nutrition and canine diseases, Bishop made it his mission to create a new brand of pet food with only the highest quality ingredients.
The company promotes their use of meat as the first ingredient, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and natural supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. They also avoid ingredients like chicken by-products, corn, wheat, soy, and artificial flavors or preservatives.
Blue Buffalo produces four main product lines:
- Life Protection Formula – Their most popular recipes, made with antioxidants, vitamins, and omega fatty acids for immune system and life stage specific health.
- Wilderness – Grain-free recipes focused on high-protein meats like venison, duck, and salmon.
- Freedom – Formulas for dogs with food sensitivities, made with limited ingredients.
- Basics – Limited ingredient recipes for dogs with digestive issues.
No matter which formula you choose, Blue Buffalo promotes their products as “inspired by nature” to provide dogs with the nutrients they need. But does the brand truly live up to their claims? Let’s dig deeper.
Assessing Blue Buffalo’s Ingredient Quality
The key to any great dog food is high quality ingredients. This is what Blue Buffalo hangs their hat on. But while their marketing touts the use of fresh meats and wholesome grains, the reality doesn’t always match the hype.
Meats and Proteins
Most Blue Buffalo formulas list a real meat like chicken, lamb, or fish as the first ingredient. This meets guidelines for a high quality dog food. However, they also commonly include cheaper meat meals rather than whole meats.
Meat meals like chicken meal still provide quality nutrition, but some question if the brand depends on them too much as a protein boost over fresh meats.
Blue Buffalo also uses “fresh chicken” on labels when poultry by-product would be more accurate according to experts, since the fresh chicken includes bones and organ meat. This suggests a gap between marketing and reality.
Fruits and Vegetables
Lots of dog foods promise nutritious fruits and veggies but rely on tiny quantities to keep costs down. Blue Buffalo includes better than average amounts, with ingredients like carrots, sweet potatoes, and blueberries in their foods.
While some of their grain-free formulas use lentils, peas, and potatoes instead, many Blue Buffalo recipes contain grains like oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and quinoa. These provide healthy complex carbs and fiber.
Blue Buffalo enhances their dog foods with supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, probiotics, antioxidants from fruits and veggies, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids from flaxseed and fish oil. This adds to the nutritional value but also increases cost.
The Bottom Line:
Blue Buffalo dog food uses high quality ingredients like real meats, digestible grains, and natural supplements. But the reliance on meat meals over fresh meats and lack of transparency on poultry quality reveals some discrepancies between marketing and reality.
Analyzing Blue Buffalo’s Recall History
Pet food recalls occur when something is discovered that could potentially make animals sick. For any brand, it’s important to pay attention to trends in recalls and how they respond. So how does Blue Buffalo measure up?
Blue Buffalo has been affected by ten recalls over their company history:
- October 2010 – Possible salmonella contamination in one production facility.
- March 2017 – Potentially elevated beef thyroid hormone levels.
- March 2017 – Presence of aluminum metal in food.
- May 2017 – Presence of elevated calcium levels.
- June 2017 – Possible salmonella and listeria contamination.
- September 2018 – Potentially elevated levels of Vitamin D.
- November 2018 – Elevated beef thyroid hormones.
- May 2019 – High levels of Vitamin D.
- June 2019 – Elevated beef thyroid hormones again.
- March 2022 – Suspected Salmonella and Listeria contamination.
Most of these recalls were limited in scope, affecting only specific production lots or formulas. The most concerning recall was in March 2017 for aluminum metal found in some foods, resulting in a lawsuit.
Blue Buffalo recalled these products quickly and provided refunds and reimbursement for medical costs when necessary. However, the pattern of recurring issues highlights some inconsistencies in manufacturing and quality control processes.
The Bottom Line:
While many recalls were limited, the number of repeat occurrences with thyroid hormones and pathogens suggests Blue Buffalo needs to tighten quality control. Rapid responses to get affected products off shelves are reassuring.
Evaluating Blue Buffalo Dog Food Product Lines
Blue Buffalo offers dozens of recipes across their four major product lines. Here is a closer look at some of the standouts for quality and nutritional value:
Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe
Key Benefits: Whole chicken first ingredient, protein-rich, natural joint support.
Main Drawbacks: Multiple grain ingredients, uses some poultry by-product.
This is one of Blue Buffalo’s most popular recipes. Made with whole chicken, chicken meal, and cracked pearled barley, it provides a complete protein source for dogs. Natural glucosamine and chondroitin support joint health. Multiple grain ingredients like oatmeal provide digestible carbs but may not be ideal for dogs with allergies. It relies on some poultry by-product as a cheaper protein booster.
Nutrition per cup: 377 kcal, 27g protein, 16g fat, 41g carbs
Wilderness High Protein Salmon Formula
Key Benefits: Grain-free, fish-first recipe with omega fatty acids.
Main Drawbacks: Very high calorie count, low fiber content.
This fish-based formula gets its protein from fresh salmon and menhaden fish meal. It has 350 calories per cup, making it better for active dogs with higher energy needs. The fish ingredients provide omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for skin and coat health. However, the lack of grains reduces fiber, and the fat content is quite high at 17% minimum.
Nutrition per cup: 350 kcal, 25g protein, 17g fat, 7g carbs
Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Lamb and Potato Recipe
Key Benefits: Simple ingredients, ideal for sensitive digestion.
Main Drawbacks: Less supplemental vitamins and antioxidants.
Limited to just seven main ingredients, this formula is great for dogs with food sensitivities. Using lamb meal and lamb provide lean protein without common triggers like chicken. Potatoes give digestible, gluten-free carbs. It lacks some of the nutritional supplements in pricier formulas. But for dogs with allergies, the simple recipe avoids excess.
Nutrition per cup: 343 kcal, 21g protein, 14g fat, 33g carbs
Freedom Grain Free Beef Recipe
Key Benefits: Single novel protein and limited ingredients.
Main Drawbacks: Has caused some allergy issues still.
Designed for dogs with food sensitivities, this grain-free recipe uses just pea starch, pea protein, tapioca starch, and beef to provide nutrition without common triggers. It offers complete nutrition in a novel protein diet. Some dogs still have allergy issues though, suggesting secondary ingredients as triggers. Always transition diets slowly.
Nutrition per cup: 331 kcal, 21g protein, 14g fat, 31g carbs
The Bottom Line: Recipes range from fewer than 10 to over 25 ingredients. Wilderness provides high protein and fat for active dogs, while Basics and Freedom limit ingredients for dogs with sensitivities. But quality varies, so consult your veterinarian.
Blue Buffalo Dog Food Reviews: The Verdict
After reviewing Blue Buffalo’s extensive product range, here are the key takeaways on their dog food:
Pros of Blue Buffalo Dog Food:
- Commitment to natural ingredients without fillers like corn or soy.
- Better quality carbohydrate sources like oatmeal and brown rice.
- Includes supplemental vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Limited ingredient and grain-free formulas for dogs with allergies or sensitivities.
- Most recipes deliver above average protein from quality meat sources.
Cons of Blue Buffalo Dog Food:
- Reliance on cheaper meat meals over more expensive whole meats.
- Lack of complete transparency on meat quality and poultry by-product content.
- Production and quality control issues as evidenced through recalls.
- Higher calorie counts and fat content in some grain-free formulas.
- Higher cost relative to many competing brands.
- Repeated allergy or sensitivity reactions in some dogs.
The Bottom Line:
Blue Buffalo offers a step up from bargain bin kibble but isn’t the pinnacle of dog food quality and consistency. Their recipes deliver good nutrition from quality ingredients in most cases. But the brand’s messaging outpaces reality in certain areas.
While they offer options tailored for different health needs, pet owners should always monitor how their individual dog does on any new food. Some dogs just don’t do as well on Blue Buffalo. Though with hundreds of positive reviews, many canines thrive on their recipes.
As one of the most popular “premium” pet food brands, Blue Buffalo hits the mark on providing safe, nutritious meals for most dogs without going overboard on price. Pet owners just shouldn’t put too much stock in the idyllic packaging and claims when the reality gets muddy in the details.
Frequently Asked Questions About Blue Buffalo Dog Food
Q: Is Blue Buffalo healthy for my dog?
A: Most Blue Buffalo formulas deliver above average nutrition and quality compared to standard kibbles. Their focus on natural ingredients from meats to fruits and veggies makes their foods healthier than many grocery store brands. However, they aren’t as consistently high quality or transparent about ingredients as some smaller premium brands.
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Q: Is Blue Buffalo grain free?
A: Blue Buffalo offers both grain-inclusive and grain-free recipes under their different product lines. Their Wilderness and Freedom lines avoid ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy and instead use potatoes, legumes, and tapioca as carb sources. Other recipes do include oatmeal, brown rice, barley, and other digestible grains.
Q: Does Blue Buffalo cause heart disease?
A: In 2019, there were some cases of dogs developing a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) while on grain-free diets. This included some dogs eating Blue Buffalo. However, a direct causative link between grain-free food and DCM has not been proven. There is no scientific evidence specifically implicating Blue Buffalo. But pet owners with breeds predisposed to heart issues should consult their vet.
Q: Is Blue Buffalo high in protein?
A: Most Blue Buffalo recipes contain at least 25% protein from quality sources like chicken, lamb, and fish. Their grain-free Wilderness line is very high in protein, averaging around 40%. Higher protein levels support lean muscle but can be an issue in dogs with kidney or liver problems.
Q: Is Blue Buffalo affordable?
A: Blue Buffalo costs more than grocery store brands but less than many premium or prescription dog foods. Their products range from around $2.50-$4 per pound. This puts them in the mid-range for premium kibbles. Pet owners on a tight budget may find more affordable options but sacrifice some quality.
Q: What is the best Blue Buffalo dog food?
A: The best Blue Buffalo formula depends on your dog’s unique needs. Their Chicken and Brown Rice recipe provides a good balance of quality protein and digestible carbs for most dogs. Dogs with allergies may do best on Basics or Freedom limited ingredient diets. Active breeds can benefit from the high protein and fat of Wilderness recipes. But work closely with your vet to choose the right food.
The Bottom Line: Is Blue Buffalo a Good Brand?
While not perfect, Blue Buffalo offers a commendable balance of quality and affordability among premium dog food brands. They Upgrade ingredients from standard kibble without huge spikes in price. Negative issues like recalls are worth noting but not overly concerning compared to competitors.
Perhaps the biggest downside of Blue Buffalo is overstating their quality and transparency in marketing messages. But focus on your individual dog’s health needs, and their products can be a step up from mainstream brands without breaking the bank. Just don’t fall for the idyllic packaging and lofty claims.