Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free (Dry)

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Rating: ★★½☆☆

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2.5 stars.

The Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free product line includes six dry dog foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

  • Blue Basics Grain Free Duck and Potato [M]
  • Blue Basics Grain Free Lamb and Potato [M]
  • Blue Basics Grain Free Turkey and Potato [M]
  • Blue Basics Grain Free Salmon and Potato [M]
  • Blue Basics Grain Free Large Breed Lamb and Potato [M]
  • Blue Basics Grain Free Small Breed Lamb and Potato (3 stars) [M]

Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free Lamb and Potato was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free Lamb and Potato Recipe

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 22% | Fat = 16% | Carbs = 54%

Ingredients: Deboned lamb, tapioca starch, potatoes, peas, lamb meal, pea protein, canola oil (source of omega 6 fatty acids), potato starch, pea fiber, natural flavor, fish oil (source of omega 3 fatty acids), alfalfa meal, choline chloride, dicalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, dl-methionine, pumpkin, dried chicory root, flaxseed (source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids), calcium carbonate, caramel, vitamin E supplement, salt, mixed tocopherols (a natural preservative), l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (a source of vitamin C), parsley, kelp, blueberries, cranberries, barley grass, Yucca schidigera extract, ferrous sulfate, turmeric, iron amino acid chelate, zinc amino acid chelate, zinc sulfate, oil of rosemary, l-carnitine, l-lysine, copper sulfate, copper amino acid chelate, nicotinic acid (vitamin B3), taurine, calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5), biotin (vitamin B7), manganese sulfate, vitamin A supplement, manganese amino acid chelate, sodium selenite, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), 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 product, folic acid (vitamin B9), calcium iodate

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.7%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis20%14%NA
Dry Matter Basis22%16%54%
Calorie Weighted Basis19%33%47%
Protein = 19% | Fat = 33% | Carbs = 47%

The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb. Although it is a quality item, raw lamb contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The second ingredient is tapioca starch, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.

The third ingredient is potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fourth ingredient includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The fifth ingredient is lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.

The sixth ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The seventh ingredient is canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because some worry that canola oil is made from rapeseed, a genetically modified (GMO) raw material.

Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.

In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.

The eighth ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The ninth ingredient is pea fiber, a mixture of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber derived from pea hulls. Aside from the usual benefits of fiber, this agricultural by-product provides no other nutritional value to a dog.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With five notable exceptions

First, although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more commonly associated with horse feeds.

Next, chicory root is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.

Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.

In addition, flaxseed is one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.

However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

Next, caramel is a natural coloring agent made by caramelizing carbohydrates. It’s used by pet food manufacturers to impart a golden brown tint to the finished product.

However, the concentrated version of this ingredient commonly known as caramel coloring has been more recently considered controversial and found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.1

In any case, even though caramel is considered safe by the FDA, we’re always disappointed to find any added coloring in a pet food.

That’s because coloring is used to make the product more appealing to humans — not your dog. After all, do you really think your dog cares what color his food is?

And lastly, this food contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free looks like an above-average dry dog food.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 22%, a fat level of 16% and estimated carbohydrates of about 54%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 23% and a mean fat level of 15%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 55% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 65%.

Below-average protein. Near-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, pea protein, alfalfa meal and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing only a limited amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a limited amount of lamb, poultry or salmon meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2.5 stars.

Not recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

Blue Buffalo Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

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A Final Word

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Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

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However, we do receive a fee from Chewy.com for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

12/11/2015 Last Update

  • Ashley

    What food did you switch to and is it a limited ingredient food?

  • Michaela boggess

    I switched my dogs I have labs to blue limited ingredients about 9 month ago from nutro ! I’m just a little worried because you hear a lot of complaints about blue now !

  • Michaela boggess

    Me to ! We might be surprised!

  • Michaela boggess

    I agree for the money they charge you would think it was a outstanding dog food , but come to find out they been not honest about what’s in it ! For what they charge you can just about by any other brand that doesn’t lie about it

  • Michaela boggess

    May I ask what you switched to , I’m currently feeding this to mine but I don’t think it’s worth the money I spent on it ! I hear more and more complaints about it !

  • C Watson

    I’m so glad I’m no longer feeding my pet this food. We switched to a 4.5 start food. At same price!

  • Pitlove

    I agree. Personally I stopped using Blue Buffalo products a while ago and will never go back.

    Side note- Is that a Pitbull or Cane Corso in your picture? Hard to tell, but really gorgeous dog.

  • Sadie Jones

    This is a very dangerous, dishonest company. It has been linked to multiple deaths in pets and has even admitted to false advertising about their ingredients in their food.

  • Myles Wood
  • Brianna

    I recently switched my 5lb yorkie to this food. She has been very itchy lately and the vet recommended we trry a new food to determine if she has food allergies. She seems to like to food very much. She has been constantly sitting and whacking her food bowl for more. I am not sure if she is doing this because she just likes the food a lot or if she is actually very hungry. Could switching the type of food require a change in the amount of food she gets?

  • angela

    I took my husky off Blue Buffalo Basic immediately & saw improvement in the hot spots. He no longer developed any new hot spots & the existing ones healed immediately.

  • Dori

    Did your vet say he thought it was food allergy or environmental allergy. If it’s only his pads that are bothering him it could be something on your lawn, etc. Is he itchy anywhere, yeasty ears, bad breath, bad gas. Those are more signs of a food allergy or intolerance. Could be a pesticide or fertilizer that was spread on either your lawn or somewhere where you walk him. Have you changed any cleaning supplies that you use on your floors? I’m suspicious because it’s only on his paws. Food intolerances would present themselves with possibly paw licking and chewing, but also he would have other issues.

  • BonesJones

    I recently took my dog to the vet w/ Irritated paw pads and the vet said he had allergies. He is a 7yr old pitbull with no prior issues the only thing I could think of was switching over to blue basics. After reading your post, I’m considering switching back to previous brand. Any improvements since taking your dog off?

  • angela

    I switched one of my huskies to Blue Buffalo Basic because of his sensitivity to food. He was previously on Natural Choice but continued with bouts of loose stools on & off. HIs stools improved greatly with normal stools but he developed HOT SPOTS. This food was the only change in his diet…I’ve taken him off of it completely. Has anyone else had this experience?

  • Jeremy

    Paid for by Purina, which makes me feel like they could be a little bit biased. This will get settled in court and apparently one or the other is lying or covering something up, only time will tell.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    The tests were performed by an independent lab.

  • Jeremy

    I would really like an independent lab to test the same batch of food versus the Purina labs outcome.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    How do you know that the ingredients in this food are of a different quality than the ingredients in a food containing corn or wheat? Blue Buffalo products were tested by an independent laboratory and found to contain “significant amounts” of by-products, corn, wheat, soy and artificial flavoring agents, according to recent reports. A perfect example of how you can’t know the “quality” of a food based on the label.

    http://articles.courant.com/2014-05-06/business/hc-blue-buffalo-nestle-purina-lawsuit-20140506_1_nestle-purina-pet-food-company-american-pet-products-association

  • Jule Schweighoefer

    i dont think 2.5 stars is a fair rating just because it has low protein, there are foods full of corn, by products, and wheat with the same rating yet this is much better quality

  • dddddddddddddd

    this food is old

    brotherssucks.com

  • madcapzany

    All mine loved it, but we now feed (mostly) Blue Buffalo Wilderness with Lifesource Bits, they really seem to love it. 🙂

  • Aleasha Casaretto

    I tried this food for my dogs and none of them would even touch it. They just turned their noses up at the bowl. Every single one of them. I tried several times to get them to eat, but even with coaxing and chicken baby food mixed in, they didn’t want to eat this food. I can’t comment on the quality, but I know that my dogs, who aren’t at all finicky, didn’t want to go near this food.