Blue Buffalo Dog Food is a popular, mainstream dog food that is readily available in pet stores across the United States. The company has corporate headquarters in Wilton, Connecticut. Their food is currently co-packed – manufactured for them by others using their recipes. At the time of the pet food recalls in 2007 the food was being manufactured by American Nutrition, Inc., in Ogden, Utah, but it’s not known if they are still producing food for Blue Buffalo. The company is somewhat secretive about it’s manufacturing processes. However, they recently received a large loan and have broken ground in Joplin, MO, on the Heartland Pet Products manufacturing and distributing facility which will cost $85 million and have 400,000 square foot of space. The plant is expected to open sometime in 2015. Presumably Blue Buffalo intends to start manufacturing their own foods at this center. This center is expected to provide 150 new jobs for the area that was devastated by a tornado in 2011.
Blue Buffalo manufactures both dog and cat food. Their dog food brand includes several different food lines:
- BLUE Life Protection Formula – Natural ingredients and LifeSource Bits
- BLUE Wilderness – Grain-free, protein rich
- BLUE Freedom – Grain-free (See Full Review Below)
- BLUE Basics – Limited ingredients
- BLUE Longevity – Ideal weight, optimal-calorie formula
- BLUE Homestyle Recipe – Natural ingredients
- Blue’s Stew – Chunks of real meat, poultry, and vegetables
- Hunter’s Stew – chunks of duck, diced carrots, peas and potatoes
- BLUE Family Favorite Recipes – Traditional family favorites
- BLUE Treats for Dogs
- BLUE Health Bars
Review Of Blue Buffalo Blue Freedom
Ingredients In Blue Buffalo Blue Freedom
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Pea Starch, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Turkey Meal, Pea Fiber, Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Chicken Flavor, Alfalfa Meal, Potato Starch, Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Garlic, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Turmeric, Oil of Rosemary, Dried Chicory Root, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Choline Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Salt, Caramel, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Dried Yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product
With so many foods in their product line, it’s hard to single out just one food to review, but let’s look at Blue Buffalo’s newest food, Blue Freedom. So far the product line only comes in chicken but there are dry kibble foods for puppies, adult dogs, small breeds, and large breeds. There are also canned foods for puppies, adult dogs, and small breeds. The food is grain-free, which is important to many pet owners, especially if they have dogs with any allergies to grains. According to their web site, Blue Buffalo’s foods contain no corn, wheat, or soy because these ingredients are often triggers for dog food allergies. While this is true, it is also slightly misleading. Chicken, beef, lamb, and other ingredients are also known to be triggers for dog food allergies but their foods contain these ingredients.
Looking at the ingredient list for Blue Freedom, the first five ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Potatoes, and Pea Starch. Since ingredients must be listed in the descending order of weight before cooking, this means that deboned chicken and chicken meal make up a large portion of the food, which is a definite plus. Both are good sources of meat protein for your dog. However, the next three ingredients are not as desirable, especially when featured so early in the ingredient list.
According to PetFoodIndustry.com and other sources, dog food companies are using peas and pea starch more and more as a filler in reaction to the public’s dislike of corn for their dogs. Instead of using corn, soy, wheat, and beet pulp, companies are using peas in various forms. They sound healthy. They sound like nice vegetables for your dogs. But they are really mostly insoluble fiber which your dog doesn’t need. They are low in protein and the protein they do provide is plant protein instead of the animal protein your dog needs. It binds water and fat and can have a laxative effect, according to the FDA. (This may explain why my own dogs had violent diarrhea when they ate another one of Blue Buffalo’s products that contained pea starch.) So, despite the fact that the first two ingredients in this food are nice sources of meat protein, the heavy use of peas and pea starch sounds some warning bells. Looking further down the ingredient list you can also find Pea Fiber.
Blue Freedom does not contain chicken or poultry by-product meal, so that’s a point in its favor. It also does not use any artificial flavors, preservatives, or coloring. They use rosemary as a preservative. This can be problematic for dogs who have epilepsy or some other conditions, but it’s almost impossible to find good dog foods today that don’t use rosemary.
The food also features blueberries and cranberries and a few other ingredients which are recognized as antioxidants. And it has several good pre- and probiotics such as chicory, and Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.
This blend also contains some supplements that are popular with pet owners today such as kelp (source of trace minerals, iodine), taurine (for the heart), and chondroitin sulfate (joints).
Controversial Ingredients Worth Specific Mention
Blue Freedom also has several more controversial ingredients. Tomato pomace is found in many dog foods now but its presence is often questioned. It provides a high level of soluble fiber and high levels of antioxidants such as lycopene. However, some people feel that it is simply another filler used by dog food companies. Many good dog food companies do use tomato pomace, or some form of tomatoes in their foods, but it may cause dogs to potty more often.
Another semi-controversial ingredient is garlic. Garlic is often found in dog foods but some people worry about feeding it. It’s true that garlic is a member of the onion family and too much garlic can lead to a form of anemia, but the small amounts of garlic found in dog food will not harm your dog.
Flaxseed can be a controversial ingredient. People praise it because it adds Omega-3 fatty acid to the diet, but this is a plant-form of Omega-3 and it is not as good as Omega-3 from fish oil. For dog breeders, there has been some suggestion that high amounts of flaxseed oil can interfere with conception in female dogs.
- Crude Protein: 24.0% min
- Crude Fat: 14.0% min
- Crude Fiber: 7.0% max
- Moisture: 10.0% max
- Calcium: 1.0% min
- Phosphorous: 0.9% min
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids*: 0.25% min
- Omega 6 Fatty Acids*: 2.5% min
- Glucosamine*: 400 mg/kg min
- Chondroitin Sulfate*: 300 mg/kg min
Calorie Content (ME Calculated, as fed): 3,444 Kcals/kg, 391 Kcals/cup
Looking at the protein and fat percentages in Blue Freedom, 24 percent protein and 14 percent fat are well within the percentages recommended by nutritional guidelines. However, they are far below what is found in many premium dog foods.
Company Reputation And Quality Control Issues
There are many holistic and boutique dog foods today that sound good to consumers because they place an emphasis on healthy food. They claim to use premium and/or natural ingredients. However, many of these companies have only been in business a short time and, unfortunately, they have often had quality control problems.
In the case of Blue Buffalo, there have been a number of complaints about their foods and several food recalls. In addition to the 2007 recall when their co-packer was using ingredients in their foods which the company did not know about, Blue Buffalo had to recall food in 2010-11 because of overdoses of vitamin D in the food. The Better Business Bureau in Connecticut showscomplaints about the company which have not been resolved. The Federal Trade Commission also made the company change their web site and remove certain claims about their foods per this letter.
Blue Freedom has good meat protein but the over-reliance on peas, pea starch, and pea fiber is troubling. The food has other good ingredients but your dog might have digestive issues if you feed this food.
Blue Buffalo dog food has received our 3.5 paw rating.
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