We’ve taken a close look at Blue Buffalo and graded it according to the Cats.com standard, evaluating the brand on species-appropriateness, product variety, price, ingredient quality, customer experience, and recall history.
The Cats.com 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 – 6/10
- Ingredient Quality – 6/10
- Product Variety – 8/10
- Price – 8/10
- Customer Experience – 6/10
- Recall History – 3/10
Overall Score: 6.17/10
Overall, we give Blue Buffalo a C grade. It receives high marks for affordability and offers decent product variety, but many of the recipes aren’t species-appropriate and customer experience varies greatly. The brand has also had a significant number of recalls.
Blue Buffalo Cat Food Video Review
In addition to performing our own qualitative analysis of the brands reviewed here, we submitted samples for analysis at an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab.
We bought the products at full retail price, and the entire testing process was funded by Cats.com without direct input or influence from the companies involved.
Analytical testing in a food chemistry lab gives us the exact macronutrient and micronutrient content of each recipe. The tests also look at microbial content, yeast, mold, and heavy metals, helping you ensure that you’re only putting the best in your cat’s bowl.
To access the lab reports for each food reviewed here, click the “view lab report” link in the product 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 a wide variety of pet food manufacturers and suppliers. 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 partners, Blue Buffalo also manufactures some of its own products. It appears that the company operates manufacturing facilities in Joplin, Missouri and Richmond, Indiana. While we don’t have exact details on Blue Buffalo’s manufacturing, it appears their products are made in the U.S.
Blue Buffalo doesn’t provide specific information about the sourcing of their ingredients either. This may be because they work with a wide variety of suppliers. We’d love to have more information in this area, but transparency about manufacturing and ingredient sourcing just isn’t part of Blue Buffalo’s brand.
Evaluating a brand’s recall history can provide insight into the quality and safety of their products. Unfortunately, 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 led 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.
In 2014, 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?
All of Blue Buffalo’s follow a natural blueprint, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of variety. Blue Buffalo has six different cat food and kitten food lines.
For dry cat food, there are the 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. Blue Buffalo’s newest dry food line for cats is Blue True Solutions which is designed to address specific health needs.
Blue Buffalo’s wet cat foods are available in the same six product lines, including traditional cat foods, veterinary diets, and the new Blue True Solutions line of health-specific products.
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 you’re doing but whatever 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 got this food thinking that I was treating my cat but instead, I was just treating Blue Buffalo’s marketing department. Blue Buffalo has a host of problems associated with it and the vets I spoke to told me to avoid this stuff like wildfire. They had seen countless cats come in with urinary and kidney problems who were being fed Blue Buffalo.” – MarketingGotMe, reviewing Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Dry Food
Blue Buffalo Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed
|Product Name||Food Type||Main Protein Source||Price||Our Grade|
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food||Dry||Chicken||$4.43 per lb||C|
|Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food||Dry||Chicken||$4.22 per lb||C|
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey Grain-Free Canned Cat Food||Wet||Turkey||$0.32 per oz||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.
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 $1.60/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. Where they really excel is in price and variety.
Most Blue Buffalo cat 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 one of our favorite cat food brands to recommend to pet owners. If you’re going to feed your cat Blue Buffalo, we recommend choosing a canned food formula that is rich in animal protein and moisture with limited added carbohydrate content.
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.
Also Read: The 10 Best Cat Foods