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Blue Buffalo Dog Food Review| Ratings | Recalls

Blue Buffalo is the “new” brand on the block, elbowing its way through the other big players of the dog food industry.

The brand had its ups and downs, but it has gone a long way from its humble beginnings. It now leads on the front lines of the premium ingredient, reduced grains pet food movement.

Blue Buffalo’s past is a bit sketchy. It had quite many recalls for it’s young age.The diet was also associated with Dilated Cardiomyopathy in the past. I would caution it’s users to keep a careful eye on their dog and to stick to regular vet appointments.

Handing its keys to General Mills Inc. has seen improved quality control. We also hope that this handover will provide the brand with a better environmental policy. 

Hi I’m Corey! 
I am a veterinarian with a special interest in dog nutrition. I deal with nutritional issues on a daily basis. I have 5 furry family members of my own and understand why which dog food to buy is an important choice for my clients.

The guys and gals at dog food heaven and myself are here to help you make the right nutritional decision for your pet. We’re here to provide you with an educated opinion without any nonsense attached.

As a veterinarian and a dog owner I do not feel that this brand’s superior quality claims are justifiable. I do not think that the quality justifies the price premium.

The diet itself is good enough for whoever is willing to pay extra money for it. I also wouldn’t feed their high protein and high fat products unless you have a working dog.

About Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo is owned by General Mills, Inc., an American multinational food manufacturer. [1]

Blue Buffalo started in 2003, inspired by the struggles of a sick dog called Blue and his dissatisfied owners.

With a “by owners, for owners” ethos, and the help of animal nutritionists and holistic veterinarians, Blue Buffalo was born and took the boutique dog food sector by storm. 

Blue Buffalo have a policy of not using corn, soy, wheat, poultry by-product meal, and artificial colourings and preservatives in their products.

They attract the kind of customers that feel very strongly about more conventional diets and want to give their dogs a premium quality diet. It is also one of the few dog food brands that offer a veterinary therapeutic diet product range.

Blue Buffalo’s History

blue buffalo food and dog

The story of Blue Buffalo started when an Airedale Terrier called Blue was diagnosed with cancer.

His owner Bill Bishop and his two sons were not satisfied with the dog food available on the market and decided to seek help from nutritionists and veterinarians to provide him with a diet that met their requirements.

Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. was founded in 2003 and the rest is history. The name of the company is derived from Blue, their late dog, which served as an inspiration to their cause, and the buffalo, an animal that to them symbolised a time and state of being where animals could lead a more natural life. [2]

Blue Buffalo took the grain free, boutique diet sector by storm and since then has taken giant strides to establish itself in a highly competitive dog food market. 

Blue Buffalo, however, brought upon itself the anger of a number of pet food companies by directly comparing its products to their competitors’ leading to long term hostilities with Purina Petcare Co.

Purina accuses Blue Buffalo of false advertising and criticising Blue Buffalo’s signature Life Source Bits as being less rich in some key nutrients than their regular kibble, and that their kibble was found to contain animal by-product meal and grains that it specifically claims not to contain. [3, 4]

Blue Buffalo also found itself mentioned a number of times in a report detailing Dilated Cardiomyopathy cases between 1st January 2014 and 30th April 2019 submitted to the FDA. [5]

Eventually Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. was bought by General Mills in 2018 and it is their only pet food brand to date. [6]

Blue Buffalo’s Food Quality

Blue Buffalo’s main marketing point is ingredient quality. They pride themselves in:

  • Using no animal by-product meals.
  • Using no artificial colouring and preservatives.
  • Using no corn, wheat or soy.
  • Providing grain free alternatives.
  • Use “real meat” as a first ingredient.

The resultant diet is a diet made from premium ingredients. Despite the company being young, their products have already suffered a number of recalls, putting into question their quality control protocols.

Blue Buffalo’s Environmental Policy

In its early days, Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. didn’t seem to be concerned with developing any environmental policy.

Their focus was on producing food with premium quality ingredients.

Their refusal to incorporate animal by-product meals and specific cereals and legumes in their diets do not hold up scientifically and cause food chain inefficiency which impacts the environment adversely.

This gives rise to a number of problems stemming from sourcing of sustainable ingredients to contributing to reduced food efficiency in the food chain. 

However, Blue Buffalo is now the property of General Mills. Fortunately, General Mills Inc. has a better environmental policy than the original company and seems to be genuinely seeking to find ways to reduce the environmental cost of all their production.

General Mills acknowledges that climate change is a threat to their business and to the world at large, by making the agricultural food producing system more fragile (due to droughts, flooding, loss of biodiversity and erosion).

General Mills have committed themselves to:

  • reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2025.
  • moving to zero waste-to-landfill at 100% of its facilities by 2025.
  • sustainably sourcing 100% of their 10 key ingredients.
  • support sustainable agricultural practices. (ex. Soil regenerative agriculture practices.)
  • reduce food waste.

General Mills are also considering switching from plastic to fiber packaging as part of their future projects. Only time will tell if this change of ownership will make Blue Buffalo a more environmentally considerate product. [7, 8]

Blue Buffalo and controversy

In the past Blue Buffalo tried to market its food as superior to that of other brands and still does so to this day. Their website has a food comparison feature that you can find here.

This has led to a series of legal disputes with other dog food companies who accused Blue Buffalo of false advertising.

Despite claiming that their diets are of the highest quality, Blue Buffalo had a string of recalls during their short existence as a company. These, however, stopped after being bought by General Mills, Inc.

Blue Buffalo Product Lines

Blue Buffalo have released quite a number of product lines, most of which focus their marketing on the idea of “natural” ingredients and a back-to-basics, meat-heavy approach.

Here are the main product lines available:

BLUE Life Protection Formula

blue buffalo life protection products

Life Protection Formula is a meat first diet designed to cater for the needs of dogs of all sizes throughout their different life stages and for dogs needing a hand keeping a healthy weight. 

This diet contains Life source bits. This line of products is the work-horse of all the Blue Buffalo range.

BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient

blue buffalo basics products

These diets go back to the absolute basics. They aim to cater for those dogs that suffer from food sensitivities.

This line of products use only one animal protein source to reduce the chances of food allergic reactions. It also contains easily digestible ingredients in order to make the diet easy on dog’s tummies.

They are also rich in essential fatty acids to better modulate the body’s inflammatory processes. These diets also contain Life Source Bits, allowing your dog to benefit from their vitamin boosting properties.

BLUE Freedom

blue buffalo freedom products

This line of products also caters for those sensitive dogs that would benefit from a grain and gluten free, limited ingredient product.

The vast majority of the protein source in these products comes from one animal with a limited number of other protein sources featuring much later in the ingredient list.

These diets also contain essential fatty acids to keep inflammatory reactions under control. Life Source Bits also do their part to protect dogs and keep them healthy.

BLUE True solutions

blue buffalo true solutions products

These 4 diets aim to help dogs with specific dietary needs. These diets are not veterinary prescription diets and are not intended for therapy.

However, they aim to help dogs with mild individual needs and prevent them from becoming clinically relevant conditions.

The diets claim to help with joint maintenance and mobility, maintaining healthy skin and coat, weight management, and minor digestive issues.

BLUE Wilderness

blue buffalo wilderness products

Blue Buffalo Wilderness are grain-free, high protein, and fat rich diets. These diets contain enough protein sources to meet any meat loving dog’s nutrient requirements.

Starchy legumes, roots and tubers are the main source of carbohydrates in these diets.

This diet also contains Life Source bits. This line also caters for dogs of different age and sizes. It also has products for dogs with a weight problem.

BLUE Carnivora

blue buffalo carnivora products

Are another type of grain free, high protein products. They get 90% of their protein content from 11 different animal protein sources. This line of products do not contain Life Source Bits.

However, the Blue Buffalo Life Source Bits are not needed given the diet is supplemented with vitamins and the amount of vitamin rich organ meat that the diet contains.

These diets are very high in protein and fat and are good for dogs that are recovering from sickness or working dogs. Carnivora diets also don’t contain peas and potatoes.

The Carnivora line caters for dogs of different sizes and life stages and for those dogs that are looking to keep their weight in check. Most importantly, Carnivora diets are fortified with Taurine preventing some of the suspected risks associated with such grain free diets. 

BLUE Natural Veterinary Diet

blue buffalo    natural veterinary diet products

Blue Buffalo are one of the few dog food brands that are producing prescription Veterinary therapeutic diets.

They have diets catering for weight management and mobility issues, food allergies and sensitivities, kidney and urinary disease, and gastro-intestinal diseases.

Like their other lines these diets contain no corn, wheat or soy; they also contain no grains and no animal by product meals.

BLUE Homestyle Recipe

blue buffalo homestyle recipe products

This product line is only made of wet food.

BLUE Homestyle products have all the appeal of a regular home cooked dog meal made by professional animal nutritionists.

All the above diets besides the Blue Homestyle Recipe range come in wet and dry dog food options.

If you feed a mix of dry and wet food we suggest you use products in the same product line and of the same type. This is especially important when feeding Veterinary therapeutic diets.

Most dry dog food products also contain prebiotic bacterial extracts and some also contain sources of soluble fibre, and fructo-oligosaccharide to maintain a healthy gut flora. 

Blue Buffalo Dog Food Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2006 If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

  • 17th March 2017 – Withdrawal (company announcement) of 12 oz. cans of Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs (Best By: 7th June 2019, UPC #84243101153). Reason: Possible high levels of beef thyroid hormone. [9]
  • 28th February 2017 – Withdrawal (voluntary) of 17 varieties of 3.5 oz. cups of Blue Divine Delights and Blue Wilderness Trail Trays (3.5 oz. cups). Reason: Foil seal quality issue. [10]
  • 13th February 2017 – Withdrawal (company announcement) of 12.5 oz. cans Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Healthy Weight, Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables (Best By: 3rd August 2019, UPC#8-40243-10017-0) Reason: Aluminium contamination. [11]
  • 31st May 2016 – Withdrawal of 30 lb. bags of Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Fish and Sweet Potato Recipe dog food. Reason: Possible mold contamination. [12]
  • 25th November 2015 – Withdrawal of one lot of Cub Size Wilderness Wild Chew Bones (Best By: 4th November 2017). Reason: Possible salmonella contamination. [13, 14]
  • 8th October 2010 – Withdrawal of Blue Wilderness Chicken 4.5 lb. (Best By: JUL2611Z, JUL2711Z & JUL2811Z), Blue Wilder ness Chicken 11lb. (Best By: JUL1211B), Blue Wilderness Chicken 24 lb. (Best By: JUL1211B & JUL1311B), Blue Basics Limited Ingredient Salmon and Potato 11 lb. (Best By: AUG2111B & AUG2211B), Blue Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon and Potato 24 lb. (Best By: AUG2111B, SEP2311P, & OCT2611P), Blue Life Protection Formula Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Large Breed Adult 30 lb. (Best By: SEP2211P, SEP2311P, & OCT2611P). Reason: Possible excessive Vitamin D. [15]
  • Wilton, Connecticut, 26th April 2007 – Withdrawal of all Blue Buffalo Blue Canned Dog food and Blue Buffalo Blue dog treats produced by American Nutrition, Inc. Reason: Possible Melanine contamination and tampering with product formula. [16]

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. [17]

FAQ

Is Blue Buffalo a good dog food brand? 

Judging by consumer reviews, Blue Buffalo seems to be a good brand.

However, before being bought by General Mills it had a history of recalls and was accused of falsely advertising the quality of their products. It was also associated with cases of Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Is Blue Buffalo dog food grain free?

Not all Blue Buffalo dog food is grain free. The company markets its food products as being free from corn, wheat and soy but these products still contain certain grains like rice, oats and barley.

Their Freedom grain free diets usually use starchy legumes, roots and tubers as their main source of energy. 

Is Blue Buffalo recommended by vets?

Like all people, vets have their own individual opinions. The simple truth is that some do and some don’t. Blue Buffalo has a BLUE Natural Veterinary Diet line of products.

These are therapeutic diets that are sold by veterinarians or need a prescription to be purchased. 

Are Blue Buffalo products really free of corn, wheat, soy, and poultry by-products?

That is what the company claims. However, some time ago, Purina accused Blue Buffalo of false advertising after finding traces of poultry by-product, grains and corn in some of their best selling products.

Blue Buffalo said that they were not aware of this and that some of the factories they employed to process the food might have tampered with their formula. They have since stopped using their services.

The company makes use of starchy roots and tubers, barley, oats and brown rice instead of corn and wheat. It also uses pea and pea protein as a soy replacement.

Blue Buffalo products often use chicken meal and also other animal protein meals to make their dog food. The difference between chicken meal and poultry by-product meal is that chicken meal, unlike poultry by-product meal, is not made with what is left after the chicken is slaughtered and processed.

Is the Blue Buffalo Wilderness line made from wild animal protein sources?

There are a few products using bison, salmon, trout, quail and venison as their main protein sources but these are usually followed by more conventional protein sources as one of the first few ingredients.

There are some products however, whose main protein sources are more conventional like beef, chicken, salmon, rabbit, and duck. We always advise to read the food label carefully before buying any bag of dog food.

What are Life Source Bits?

They are a cold pressed blend of vitamin and antioxidant rich ingredients.

Cold pressing prevents the denaturing of these important ingredients during the kibble pelleting process, providing your dog with a nutritious boost that will keep them in good shape.

Life Source Bits are made of Blueberries, Cranberries, Kelp, Barley Grass, Parsley, Flaxseed, Alfalfa and a blend of Vitamins E, C and A. 

The Vet’s Opinion

In my everyday work I see a number of dog food brands feeding dog owner’s fears about what they are feeding their dogs, antopomorphising the problem in the process; Blue Buffalo unfortunately is one such brand.

The demonisation of poultry by-product meal, corn, wheat, soy and other ingredients is unnecessary and scientifically unfounded. These are perfectly good ingredients that most dogs thrive on and help reduce global food waste. 

I like that despite their philosophy the brand is taking the issue of diet associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy very seriously and that it is cooperating with the FDA and other pet food companies.

The brand is now supplementing their diets with taurine. I would however still advise caution when feeding this brand of dog food as it was mentioned in about 6% of all cases in the FDA report. [18]

Blue Buffalo had no recalls since it changed hands to General Mills Inc. and this can only mean good things about their quality control measures.

I wouldn’t go so far as saying that the diet is superior to other products, particularly those of established companies that invest a lot in research and development.

However, having a veterinary therapeutic product line only means good things about their long term commitment to research and development of quality products.

The diet is a tough sell for people like me that are concerned about the impact their pet’s food has on environmental health.

I would personally like to see more effort and more evidence about the product’s environmental sustainability before suggesting it to my clients, or paying good money for it.

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