4 Reasons to Skip on Buying Blue Buffalo Dog Food

Written by Kristen Holder
Updated: November 8, 2023
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Blue Buffalo dog foods are General Mills products produced by Blue Buffalo Pet Products, Inc. Originally, the brand started as a family recipe for a dog named Blue with cancer. Since then, it has become a multi-billion dollar product line that is in almost all major pet stores. Despite its popularity, the food itself isn’t as high quality as the brand would have you believe. We’ve listed 4 reasons to skip on buying Blue Buffalo dog food that you should consider before your next purchase.

In 2019, more than 10 cases of cardiomyopathy were identified by the FDA as possibly being linked to a diet of Blue Buffalo grain-free dog food.

1. Blue Buffalo Dog Food Contains Ingredients Not Fit For Humans

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Lamb and Brown Rice Recipe

Despite touting all-natural ingredients, Blue Buffalo dog foods contain ingredients like lamb meal.

©Direct Photo Taken by Kristen Holder, Author AZ Animals – License

Blue Buffalo dog food contains byproducts as ingredients that humans do not eat. These byproducts are known as feed-grade ingredients, and they do not meet the standards required for food to be human-grade.

This company’s food also contains animal protein sources that are ambiguously labeled. Crude protein sources can contain any kind of waste from rendered animals and are not safe for human consumption. Blue Buffalo tries to skirt this association by labeling things beef meal, lamb meal, and fish meal.

These meals are still an ambiguously rendered byproduct that humans shouldn’t eat. They are just sourced from the specific animal mentioned. Blue Buffalo is vocal about not using chicken meal, but this product isn’t much worse than what they do allow in their food.

Human-Grade vs. Feed-Grade in Pet Food

Human-grade food meets over 100 quality standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Human-grade food is also edible from start to finish. This means that its ingredients can be eaten by people at the farm, at any time during production, and as a finished product.

Feed-grade ingredients aren’t as rigorously controlled. This means that at least one ingredient is not an acceptable human food at some point during the manufacturing process. Despite this, most pet food on the market is feed-grade.

Even if something is labeled plainly as beef, if it’s feed-grade, this protein may be scrap meat. Even worse, this meat can potentially be sourced from sick and disabled animals. It can also include meat from animals that were found dead for unknown reasons before slaughter.

The problem with wanting to feed your pet human-grade ingredients at all times is that it is astronomically more expensive than using the many feed-grade quality products on the market. As a result, feeding your dog human-grade foods is not something we focus on elsewhere in this article.

2. There Are Too Many Added Minerals and Vitamins in Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Lamb and Brown Rice 5 lb Bag Front

The LifeSource Bits in Blue Buffalo kibble are unpalatable to a lot of dogs.

©Direct Photo Taken by Kristen Holder – Author AZ Animals – License

The extrusion process used to create Blue Buffalo kibble destroys many of the necessary nutrients a dog needs for a healthy diet. Since Blue Buffalo kibble experiences high heat during processing, a mix of vitamins and minerals is added to put needed nutrition back into the food that’s been cooked out. These mixes can be dangerous because they sometimes provide too many vitamins and minerals which can make dogs sick.

Most of the added vitamins and minerals in Blue Buffalo dog kibble are in the LifeSource Bits found in every dry food variety. These LifeSource Bits are created in a cold process that doesn’t bake the nutrients out of the food. These dark and hard pellets are unpalatable to a lot of dogs, so they just pick them out which defeats their entire purpose.

3. Blue Buffalo: Grain-Free Doesn’t Mean Healthier

Blue Buffalo canned Grain-Free Freedom Chicken Recipe dog food Adult

Blue Buffalo grain-free dog food is not a healthier choice.

©Kristen Holder, Author AZ Animals, Photo Taken Directly – License

While most people think dogs are obligate carnivores, that isn’t true. Dogs are omnivorous. Since they evolved alongside people and ate leftover human food for centuries, they’ve adjusted to having plant nutrition in their diets.

Blue Buffalo does not use soy, wheat, or corn in a lot of its food products. However, they do use large amounts of oatmeal, barley, and rice in some of their foods. Some of these grain sources are whole grains, but not all of them.

Around 20 to 40 percent of all of their products are made of carbs. If you think grain-free means there are fewer plant-based fillers, you’re wrong. Only animals with grain allergies benefit from grain-free Blue Buffalo.

Even though Blue Buffalo dog food is sometimes grain-free, it still contains simple and complex carbohydrates. Things like potatoes, pumpkin, and tapioca are common ingredients in different varieties of Blue Buffalo kibble.

Grain-Free Blue Buffalo Dog Food May Cause Heart Attacks

Ingredients list from Blue Buffalo grain-free Freedom kibble bag - Small Breed Adult Recipe

Blue Buffalo’s grain-free recipes contain high amounts of pea-based ingredients.

©Photo taken directly by Kristen Holder at AZ Animals – License

Grain-free diets may be linked to cases of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. In other words, a diet of some Blue Buffalo products may cause congestive heart failure in its canine consumers. In 2019, more than 10 cases of this disease were identified by the FDA as possibly being linked to a diet of Blue Buffalo grain-free dog food.

The FDA posits that grain-free dog food that includes high quantities of legumes like peas and lentils may increase the risk of heart attacks not caused by genetics. These ingredients are found in high quantities in grain-free Blue Buffalo. This means that it’s healthier to feed your dog processed food that contains grains if they easily tolerate it.

4. Blue Wilderness Dog Food Is Not What Wolves Eat

Blue Wilderness kibble with duck. Adult formula. Blue Buffalo brand.

Blue Wilderness dog food is not designed around the diet of wolves.

©Kristen Holder, Author AZ Animals. Direct Photo Taken. – License

The ingredients in Blue Wilderness dog food aren’t close to what wolves eat in the wild. While the company advertises these varieties as based on a grey wolf’s diet, these products contain high levels of carbs that wolves do not consume. Dogs can digest carbohydrates in a way wolves cannot, but that doesn’t justify deceptive marketing.

Better Alternatives to Blue Buffalo Dog Food

Blue Buffalo dog food isn’t dangerous, but it’s not nearly as fancy or as healthy as their marketing department would have you think. They’re smart at how they brand their foods which allows them to inflate their prices despite a lack of quality ingredients.

Despite this, a Blue Buffalo dog food diet isn’t the worst food choice on the market. It is still a premium dog food despite its drawbacks. However, there are also better alternatives.

Hill’s Science Diet Is a Better Choice Than Blue Buffalo

Hill's Science Diet Perfect Weight Chicken Recipe Adult Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet is a good premium dog food brand.

©Direct Image Taken by Kristen Holder – Author AZ Animals – License

Hill’s Science Diet has existed since the 1930s, and it has only experienced 3 recalls. In comparison, Blue Buffalo has been around for a couple of decades and has experienced seven. This shows that the quality control that goes into Science Diet is much higher than Blue Buffalo.

Hill’s Science Diet is less focused on ingredient diversity across its products. As a result, they do not carry grain-free options like Blue Buffalo. However, they do carry soy, wheat, and corn-free options for every dog size. 

As the name Science Diet suggests, the emphasis of this brand is not on natural ingredients but on calculated health benefits. This allows Hill’s Science Diet a wider range of foods for different needs without needing an expensive prescription. They are also one of the leading producers of veterinary prescription food.

On top of all of this, Science Diet runs a self-managed nutrition center where they monitor the effects of their products on animals firsthand. Blue Buffalo does not do this.

Science Diet uses a lot less peas in its products which means it doesn’t have the potential association with heart health problems like Blue Buffalo. Also, the vitamins and minerals needed for a well-rounded diet are in one pellet of kibble in Hill’s Science Diet formulas. Unlike Blue Buffalo, dogs do not have the opportunity to eat around the healthiest part of their meals.

Top Vet-Recommended
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley Recipe
  • Contains high-quality protein to support an adult dog’s muscles
  • Contains omega-6s and Vitamin E for a dog’s coat and skin health
  • Comes in a variety of flavors
  • Contains fiber for a healthy gut
Check Chewy Check Amazon

Purina Pro Plan Is a Quality Choice That’s Cheaper Than Blue Buffalo

A good alternative is Purina Pro Plan.
A good alternative is the Purina Pro Plan.

Purina has been an animal food company for about 120 years which is gargantuan in light of the 2 decades under Blue Buffalo’s belt. As a long-standing pet food company, Purina also invests in a company-owned research center. Again, Blue Buffalo isn’t directly hands-on with its nutrition viability.

Purina Pro Plan has only experienced one recall, and it wasn’t because the food was dangerous as with some Blue Buffalo recalls. Purina recalled some wet food varieties voluntarily because they didn’t contain some of the advertised minerals and vitamins.

Blue Buffalo has its fans because of its natural ingredients. But again, what makes an ingredient natural is subjective, and Purina touts the scientific benefits of its food without leaning on the idea of the cleanest eating possible. They wrap their brand’s reputation around complete nutrition, not on a myth about the pureness of individual ingredients.

While both Purina Pro Plan varieties and Blue Buffalo are premium dog foods, Purina Pro Plan is usually a little bit cheaper than Blue Buffalo. This lends more credence to its desirability over Blue Buffalo products. Blue Buffalo uses marginally better ingredients, but Purina Pro Plan is a solid economic decision.

  1. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley Recipe
    • Contains high-quality protein to support an adult dog’s muscles
    • Contains omega-6s and Vitamin E for a dog’s coat and skin health
    • Comes in a variety of flavors
    • Contains fiber for a healthy gut
    Check Chewy Check Amazon

Fresh Dog Food Is Better Dog Food

FreshPet refrigerated dog food in fridge. Beef and brown rice recipe.

Freshpet dog foods sold in the refrigerator section are better quality food than most kibbles and cans.

©Kristen Holder’s Direct Photo – Author AZ Animals – License

Fresh dog food sold in the refrigerator section of pet food stores is by far the best choice for dogs. However, it is more expensive than premium kibble and canned foods. Despite this, the ingredient lists are shorter and packed with better quality items than any of the processed foods presented in this article.

A good brand that’s easy to find at most major retailers is Fresh Pet. It offers a range of different refrigerated products, but the chubs of Nature’s Fresh and Vital Grain Free foods are your best bets. The ingredient lists are easy to read, and the types of meats, grains, and vegetables used in these products are more nutritious than anything that’s offered in an extruded kibble.

Summary of 4 Reasons to Skip Buying Blue Buffalo Dog Food

NumberReasons to Skip Buying Blue Buffalo Dog Food
1Blue Buffalo Dog Food Contains Ingredients Not Fit For Humans
2Too Many Added Minerals and Vitamins in Blue Buffalo
3Blue Buffalo: Grain-Free Doesn’t Mean Healthier
4Blue Wilderness Dog Food Is Not What Wolves Eat
Summary Table of 4 Reasons to Skip Buying Blue Buffalo Dog Food

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kristen Holder, Author AZ Animals, Photo Taken Directly – License / Original

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About the Author

Kristen Holder is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics related to history, travel, pets, and obscure scientific issues. Kristen has been writing professionally for 3 years, and she holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Riverside, which she obtained in 2009. After living in California, Washington, and Arizona, she is now a permanent resident of Iowa. Kristen loves to dote on her 3 cats, and she spends her free time coming up with adventures that allow her to explore her new home.

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