Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free product line includes five dry dog foods, four claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance and one recipe for growth (Puppy).
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Adult Beef
- Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Adult Chicken
- Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Puppy Chicken (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Small Breed Chicken (4.5 stars)
- Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Large Breed Chicken (4.5 stars)
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Adult Beef recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Adult Beef Recipe
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Deboned beef, chicken meal, peas, potatoes, potato starch, turkey meal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tomato pomace (source of lycopene), pea fiber, flaxseed (source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids), natural chicken flavor, alfalfa meal, whole carrots, whole sweet potatoes, blueberries, cranberries, apples, blackberries, pomegranate, spinach, pumpkin, barley grass, dried parsley, garlic, dried kelp, Yucca schidigera extract, turmeric, l-lysine, taurine, l-carnitine, glucosamine hydrochloride, oil of rosemary, dried chicory root, beta carotene, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), d-calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), biotin (vitamin B7), folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin B12 supplement, calcium ascorbate (source of vitamin C), vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, iron amino acid chelate, zinc amino acid chelate, manganese amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate, choline chloride, sodium selenite, calcium iodate, salt, caramel, potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, dried yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae), dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 7.8%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||27%||16%||50%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||23%||33%||44%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is beef. Although it’s a quality item, raw beef 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 chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The third ingredient is 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 fourth 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 fifth ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The sixth ingredient includes turkey meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
The seventh ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.
The eighth ingredient is tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.
Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.
Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.
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 nutritional value to a dog.
The tenth ingredient is flaxseed, 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.
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 six notable exceptions…
First, we find alfalfa meal. 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, garlic can be a controversial item. Although most experts favor the ingredient for its numerous health benefits, garlic (in rare cases) has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.1
However, the limited professional literature we surveyed provided no definitive warnings regarding the use of garlic — especially when used in small amounts (as it likely is here).
In addition, 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.
Next, this food also 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.
Additionally, caramel is a coloring agent made by caramelizing carbohydrates. It’s used by pet food manufacturers to impart a golden brown tint to the finished product.
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, we note the inclusion of dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal with digestion.
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Dog Food looks like an above average dry product.
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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 28% and a mean fat level of 16%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 48% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 57%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effects of the peas, flaxseed and alfalfa meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of beef, chicken and chicken meal as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
Those looking for a canned version in the same product line may wish to visit our review of Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free canned dog food.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
A Final Word
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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".
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Notes and Updates
02/15/2012 Original review
08/20/2013 Review updated
08/20/2013 Last Update
- Yamato et al, Heinz Body hemolytic anemia with eccentrocytosis from ingestion of Chinese chive (Allium tuberosum) and garlic (Allium sativum) in a dog, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 41:68-73 (2005) ↩