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We’ve taken a close look at Blue Buffalo and graded it according to the We’re All About Cats standard, evaluating the brand on species-appropriateness, product variety, price, ingredient quality, customer experience, and recall history.
The We’re All About Cats Standard—Rating Blue Buffalo on What Matters
We’ve rated the brand on six key criteria for quality. Here’s how it rates in each of these six crucial areas.
- Species-Appropriateness – 4/10
- Ingredient Quality – 6/10
- Product Variety – 7/10
- Price – 8/10
- Customer Experience – 6/10
- Recall History – 3/10
Overall Score: 5.6/10
In total, we give Blue Buffalo cat food a 34 out of 60 rating or a C grade. Read on to learn more about Blue Buffalo and how we reached this conclusion.
Quick Look – Top Recipes Reviewed
|Product Name||Food Type||Main Protein Source||Price per Ounce||Our Grade|
|Wilderness Grain-Free Adult Chicken||Dry||Chicken||$0.18||C|
|Wilderness Chicken High Protein Grain Free||Wet||Chicken||$0.23||B-|
|Indoor Health Chicken & Brown Rice||Dry||Chicken||$0.18||C|
Blue Buffalo Cat Food Video Review
About Blue Buffalo
Blue Buffalo was created in 2002 by Bill Bishop. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1961, Bishop began a long career in advertising and consumer products. Bishop is behind advertising and marketing programs for big names like Tropicana, Perrier, Nabisco, and American Express. He was the co-founder of SoBe and served as its COO until its sale to Pepsi in 2001.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Bishop brought his marketing acumen to a new project—Blue Buffalo. Named after Bishop’s 9-year-old Airedale terrier, Blue, the company was poised to go big on the burgeoning natural pet food market.
After sixteen successful years in the business, the company was sold to General Mills for $8 billion. Today, it’s America’s leading natural pet food company.
Sourcing and Manufacturing
Blue Buffalo works with several manufacturers. According to a brand profile published by the Whole Dog Journal in 2012, these were Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, ANI/Vita-Line Products, CJ Foods, ProPet, Triple T Foods, and Tuffy’s Pet Foods.
In addition to these manufacturing partners, Blue Buffalo also manufactures its own products. It appears that the company operates manufacturing facilities in Joplin, Missouri and Richmond, Indiana.
Blue Buffalo has been recalled several times since its creation in 2002. Here’s a summary of the company’s recall history.
Starting with a packaging problem affecting a number of Blue Buffalo dog food cups, 2017 involved three unique recalls. Shortly after the packaging problem in February, Blue recalled several cans of Homestyle Recipe dog food due to possible aluminum contamination. In March of 2017, Blue Buffalo dog food was recalled due to potentially high levels of beef thyroid hormone.
Blue Buffalo announced a limited recall of dog food due to excessive moisture levels and the consequent potential for mold contamination.
Blue Buffalo had two recalls in 2015. The first involved a limited number of Blue Kitty Yums cat treats. The treats were found to contain propylene glycol, which is prohibited by FDA guidelines.
In autumn of 2015, the company recalled a single lot of chewing bones due to potential salmonella contamination.
Blue Buffalo recalled several products due to what they described as a “sequencing error”, which may have lead to food contaminated with excess levels of vitamin D.
Blue Buffalo was involved in the nationwide melamine recalls. The FDA confirmed the presence of melamine in rice protein concentrate in Blue Buffalo foods. This prompted a recall of all their canned dog food, all cans of their Spa Select canned cat food, all dog treats, and Blue Buffalo Spa Select Kitten dry food. After discovering that the manufacturer had allowed melamine contamination, Blue Buffalo severed their relationship with American Nutrition, Inc.
In addition to recalls, Blue Buffalo has been at the center of multiple controversies and lawsuits.
Purina accused Blue Buffalo of false advertising when Blue’s products tested positive for animal by-products, ingredients that Blue Buffalo claims are never present in any of their foods.
In response to this accusation, Blue Buffalo insisted that their ingredient supplier was at fault. Note that the ingredient supplier involved was Wilbur-Ellis, which was one of companies that imported melamine-tainted protein associated with the 2007 pet food recalls.
Blue Buffalo was also involved in a class-action lawsuit revolving around potentially toxic levels of lead in the brand’s foods. The lawsuit started when a dog named Coco died from kidney failure apparently caused by chronic lead poisoning. The case file states that the plaintiff sent Blue dog food to an independent lab for testing and confirmed that several varieties of the food contained excessive levels of lead. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.
In June of 2019, the FDA named Blue Buffalo among 16 pet food brands that may be linked to an increased risk of DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs and cats.
During the FDA’s investigation of a potential link between grain-free diets and an increased risk of DCM in dogs—and some cats—the agency named 16 brands most commonly fed to pets who developed heart issues between 2014 and 2019. Blue Buffalo was the sixth brand on the list and associated with 31 reports of heart disease in that 5-year period.
It’s important to note that this was not a recall and the FDA’s investigation remains inconclusive.
What kinds of cat food does Blue Buffalo offer?
Blue Buffalo has five cat food lines. These are original BLUE, BLUE Freedom, which is a line of grain-free products, BLUE Basics limited-ingredient foods, meat-rich BLUE Wilderness, and BLUE Natural Veterinary Diet, which is only available through veterinarians.
What do customers think of Blue Buffalo cat food?
To get an idea of what real customers are saying about Blue Buffalo, here are a few reviews selected from several popular recipes listed on Amazon and Chewy.
“My 6-year-old kitty loves this food. He can’t get enough of it. He was on Science Diet A/D food for a while when I first adopted him because he wouldn’t eat anything else. This food was a great next step for him, since it has a similar texture and some similar ingredients.” – CatDog, reviewing Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Canned Cat Food
“I started feeding Blue when my oldest cat developed diabetes. He has been on this food for 8 years and my vet says “ I don’t know what your doing but what ever it is keep doing because he is doing great. All my cats are on this….” – Quacker, reviewing Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Dry Cat Food
“My older cat has grain allergies. The vet said this must have grain in it since she was sick while trying to eat it. The name is deceiving. I’m disappointed. My kitten loves Blue Buffalo” – Debbi, reviewing Freedom Indoor Adult Pate
“I two years ago I moved from Purina to Blue Buffalo in an attempt to give Claire (my 6yo Ragamuffin) a more natural and healthy food source. Things went fine for a while until my vet started seeing elevated levels of calcium. Wasn’t a big deal at first, they were slightly elevated and we went on our merry way. Nine months later, I bring my cat in for another visit and she had lost 1lb (she maintained ~8lbs for years, so 1lb is a large decrease) and became hypercalcemic, her levels were continuing to increase. We started to panic because we weren’t sure what was causing this! Hypercalcemia can form as a result of many things, including idiopathic (unknown origin) but we started running tests to rule out cancer or kidney issues. The cancer marker test came back negative and her kidney function looked fine. Trying to rule out what environmentally could be causing this, we switched back to Purina and gave it three months. She gained her 1lb back and her calcium levels returned back to normal! There are a couple articles online that have hinted, in an attempt to supplement cat food to include their required vitamins and minerals, cat food companies use certain chemicals to use in that fortification. One of these is DL-Methionine, which is used in this Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Chicken & Brown Rice cat food. Now, I’m not a vet, animal food nutritionist or chemist but when we went back to Claire’s old Purina, she returned back to normal. Coincidence? I wouldn’t risk my cat’s health on it. Beware.” – Matt, reviewing Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
Blue Buffalo Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed
|Product Name||Food Type||Main Protein Source||Calories||Price per Ounce||Our Grade|
|Wilderness Grain-Free Adult Chicken||Dry||Chicken||443 calories per cup||$0.18||C|
|Wilderness with Chicken High Protein Grain Free||Wet||Chicken||32 calories per ounce||$0.22||B|
|Indoor Health Chicken & Brown Rice||Dry||Chicken||402 calories per cup||$0.15||C|
All nutritional percentages in this table and hereafter are taken from the manufacturer’s guaranteed analysis. Exact nutritional percentages are not available. All calculated values are determined using these minimum and maximum published values and may differ from actual values. Blue Buffalo is the ultimate authority on their products, so please contact the company for more nutritional information.
Like all products in the Wilderness line, this food is grain-free and promises to deliver higher levels of protein.
The recipe starts with deboned chicken and chicken meal. Along with pea protein, these serve as the food’s primary protein sources. Menhaden fish meal and dried egg product appear later on the ingredient list.
Instead of grains like corn, rice, or wheat, the food contains peas and tapioca starch as its primary binding agents. Though these ingredients tend to look more appealing than grains, none of them are particularly nourishing for cats. They drive up the food’s carbohydrate content and their protein is generally less digestible than protein from animal sources.
The food is enhanced with what Blue Buffalo calls “LifeSource Bits”. These are pieces of kibble containing concentrated antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, the food contains a smattering of nutraceuticals, with probiotics, turmeric, and berries appearing near the end of the ingredient list.
Overall, this food has slightly below-average carbohydrate content when compared to other dry foods, moderate protein content, and moderate fat.
As an economical dry food, this recipe is one of the better ones you can buy. It doesn’t contain any animal by-products or vaguely named ingredients. It’s free of artificial colors or potentially-harmful preservatives. And it contains several species of probiotic bacteria, promising to support better digestive health.
But it’s not great.
Pea protein takes up some significant real estate near the beginning of the ingredient list, indicating that this food’s protein may be more plant-derived than meat-based. And with its carbohydrate content lingering just under 30% on a dry matter basis, the food is significantly starchier than it should be, raising your cat’s blood sugar and potentially contributing to diabetes over time.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Peas, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Egg Product, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Calcium Chloride, Potassium sulfate, DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, L-Carnitine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary
- Protein: 40% min
- Fat: 18.0% min
- Crude Fiber: 4.0% max
- Moisture: 9.0% max
- Ash: n/a
- Calories: 443 calories per cup
Ingredients We Liked: Deboned Chicken
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Potatoes, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal
Common Allergens: Chicken, Eggs, Fish
- Relatively low carbohydrate content compared to other dry foods
- Cats like the flavor
- No by-products or vaguely-named meals
- Contains concentrated plant protein
- Excessive carbohydrate content for carnivores
- Dry food can never provide adequate hydration
According to Blue Buffalo, this food is formulated for the “special needs of cats who live indoors”. Like most cat food manufacturers, they identify these special needs as an inclination to develop lower urinary tract disease, hairballs, and obesity due to reduced activity.
The food targets these issues with the inclusion of cranberries to fight urinary tract infections, added fiber to potentially discourage hairball development, and relatively low calorie content.
It’s primarily made with a blend of chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver, all of which are good sources of nutrition for your cat. While the ingredient list gets off to a good start, the food’s inclusion of carrots, sweet potatoes, and other plant ingredients make it look less and less like a species-appropriate recipe.
Compared to other canned foods, this product is high in carbohydrates with average protein content and moderate fat content.
Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Powdered Cellulose, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Fish Oil, Cranberries, Blueberries, Choline Chloride, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols.
- Protein: 9.0% min
- Fat: 6.0% min
- Crude Fiber: 78.00%
- Moisture: 81.5% max
- Ash: 2.41%
- Calories: 32 calories per ounce
Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Fish Oil
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Flaxseed, Carrageenan
Common Allergens: Chicken
- Primarily made from animal protein sources
- High moisture food
- Cats like the flavor
What We Didn’t Like
- Excessive carbohydrate content
This popular formula is marketed to indoor cat guardians. The company claims that the recipe addresses the unique needs of indoor-only cats, including a tendency to develop hairballs, urinary tract disease, and obesity. To combat these issues, the food is high in fiber, contains cranberries, and has moderate calorie content.
Its main protein sources are deboned chicken, chicken meal, and menhaden fish meal. These ingredients are followed by a medley of plant ingredients, including brown rice, barley, and oatmeal. But this recipe isn’t all grains. The food also contains peas and pea protein, ingredients that contribute both protein and carbohydrates.
The food is enriched with Blue Buffalo’s signature LifeSource Bits, which are enriched chunks of kibble containing concentrated vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Ultimately, this is a plant-based dry food with high carbohydrate content, moderate-to-high protein content, and moderate fat.
Like so many dry foods—especially those marketed for indoor cats—this recipe is a plant-heavy, carbohydrate-rich product that fails to honor your cat’s needs as a carnivore. It has all the nutrition your cat needs, but it’s not the species-appropriate ideal.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Peas, Pea Protein, Dried Egg Product, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potato Starch, Powdered Cellulose, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Pea Fiber, Potatoes, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Cranberries, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Salt, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Blueberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
- Protein: 32% min
- Fat: 15.0% min
- Crude Fiber: 6.0% max
- Moisture: 9.0% max
- Ash: 8.12%
- Calories: 402 calories per cup
Ingredients We Liked: Deboned Chicken
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Pea Protein, Potatoes
Common Allergens: Chicken, Fish
- Relatively affordable
- Cats seem to like eating this food
- Contains multiple sources of plant protein
- High carbohydrate content
- No dry food provides the hydration your cat requires
How much does Blue Buffalo cat food cost?
Compared to other brands positioned as super-premium and natural, Blue Buffalo is relatively inexpensive. For example, if you have a 10-lb cat who needs about 200 calories per day, Blue Buffalo Freedom canned food will cost you around $1.40/day.
Overall, is Blue Buffalo a good choice?
Blue Buffalo cat food is popular and well-loved, but it’s far from perfect nutritionally or in terms of quality.
Most Blue Buffalo foods contain considerable amounts of plant matter. Worse than the brand’s reliance on plant-heavy recipes, Blue Buffalo has been recalled multiple times during the last decade. These incidents suggest deficits in quality control and transparency from Blue’s suppliers and manufacturing partners.
Blue Buffalo, therefore, isn’t a brand we’d recommend for most cats.
Where is Blue Buffalo cat food sold?
Blue Buffalo is available almost anywhere you can buy cat food. You’ll find it in grocery stores, pet specialty retailers, and more. Online, it’s available on Amazon, Chewy, and other web retailers.
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.