Blue Buffalo vs. Iams: Which Dog Food Is Better?

German shepherd speech bubble "Blue Buffalo vs. Iams: Which Dog Food Is Better?"

Getting the right dog food brand for your canine companion can be a daunting task because you not only want to settle for an affordable and nutritious recipe but also one that your pooch will like. Among the many brands in the market today, two popular brands, Blue Buffalo and Iams, are on a quest for superiority. Which brand is better?

If you want quality ingredients in a brand, go for Blue Buffalo. However, if affordability is your key consideration, settle for Iams. For versatility, Blue Buffalo comes in a wide range of food options to choose from. If you want food safety in terms of recalls, you’ll want to choose Iams.

This article will compare Blue Buffalo vs. Iams by analyzing vital factors such as primary ingredients, nutritional value, and flavor, as well as compare their prices, safety, and food varieties. If you’re torn between these two brands, read on.

Blue Buffalo vs. Iams: Basic Overview

Before diving deeper into the specifics of each pet food brand, let’s first take a look at what each brand entails.

Blue Buffalo

Blue buffalo is one of the more reputable pet food brands in the market today. It started in 2002 when its founders were pursuing a healthy recipe to help their ailing Airedale named Blue. To help their sickly canine, the founders were inspired to create a dog formula that contains high-quality natural ingredients and protein-rich real meat as the primary ingredient.

Since its launch, this brand has diversified its product line while still maintaining its original goal, which is using holistic natural ingredients. The recipes eliminate wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors, preservatives, and poultry or chicken by-products, and aim at giving dogs real nutritional value with every bite.

Today, Blue Buffalo’s most popular product lines include Freedom, Basics, Wilderness, Life Protection Formula, and Natural Veterinary Diet.

Each of these product lines comes with a different mix of ingredients depending on its intended purpose. For example:

  • Freedom is a grain-free recipe.
  • Life Protection Formula boasts the finest natural ingredients.
  • Basics look into the needs of sensitive pups.
  • Wilderness comes with a higher content of real meat.
  • Natural Veterinary Diet is meant for dogs with health conditions.

However, a common feature about these recipes is they all contain real meat as their first ingredient, which is a good source of proteins and amino acids and satisfies the canines’ taste buds.

Additionally, nearly all Blue Buffalo recipes contain additional unique elements known as LifeSource Bits, a blend of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to keep your pup nourished.

Since this brand has an endless list of recipes, we’ll choose one of its highly rated products, the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dry Dog Food, to use as our reference point.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Dry Dog Food, Chicken and Brown Rice 30-lb

Iams

Iams pet food brand was launched in 1946 to craft top-quality recipes to support optimal health and general well-being in dogs and was the first pet recipe to use animal-based proteins in its formulation.

Over the years, this company has engaged in intense research to produce pet foods suitable for dogs of different sizes, ages, and nutritional needs.

It has since branched into natural food lines focusing mainly on dry and wet food variants. The brand includes foods rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in its recipes to give canines a glowing and lustrous coat.

While this brand emphasizes the use of nutritious ingredients, dog owners who are ingredient-conscious often question the use of grains such as corn that aren’t ideal for dogs with sensitivity issues, which brings about controversial issues.

For this analysis, we’ll pick one of its bestselling recipes, IAMS Minichunks Dry Dog Food, to peek at its ingredients and nutritional content.

IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Minichunks Small Kibble High Protein Dry Dog Food with Real Chicken, 30 lb. Bag

Blue Buffalo vs. Iams Ingredients

Our chosen recipes, Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice and IAMS Minichunks Chicken and Whole Grain Rice, are meant for adult dogs, making our comparison easy. Here is how the ingredients of these two dog foods compare to each other.

Blue Buffalo Ingredients

Listed below are the key ingredients of Blue Buffalo:

  • Deboned chicken
  • Chicken meal
  • Brown rice
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Pea starch
  • Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids)
  • Chicken fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols)
  • Dried tomato pomace
  • Natural flavor
  • Peas
  • Pea protein
  • Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal
  • Potatoes
  • Dried chicory root
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Dried kelp
  • Yucca Schidigera Extract
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Glucosamine Hydrochloride
  • Calcium Pantothenate (vitamin B5)
  • Biotin (vitamin B7)

For a quality dog food recipe, it’s hard to go wrong with Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice for adult dogs. The recipe is specially formulated to meet your canine friend’s nutritional needs and keep them fueled for their daily activities.

Like other Blue Buffalo recipes, this food contains real meat, specifically chicken meat as the first ingredient. The protein-rich deboned chicken helps your dog build and maintain healthy and strong muscles.

To further boost the recipe’s protein content, chicken meal has also been featured in this formulation, which offers three to four times more protein than whole chicken meat.

The second main ingredient in this formula is brown rice, which is a good source of natural fiber essential for your dog’s gut health. Additionally, it’s a good source of carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins.

Potatoes are also among the key ingredients and are a good source of additional natural fiber, carbohydrates, and vitamins (B6 and C).

Other beneficial ingredients in this formula include flaxseeds, chicken fat, and chicory root. Flaxseed is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acid and provides additional dietary fiber when grounded. However, it’s also a source of plant-based protein, meaning it can skew the animal-based protein content in the recipe.

Chicken fat is rich in fatty acids essential for your canine’s skin and coat health and adds natural chicken flavor to this recipe. Chicory root is a prebiotic vital for optimal gut health. This recipe is also enriched with LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that boost your puppy’s immune system.

Another key ingredient, Yucca Schidigera Extract, reduces the odor in your canine friend’s waste.

However, despite the numerous nutritional benefits derived from this formula, few ingredients have questionable nutritional importance, which includes pea protein and garlic. Pea is a rich source of plant-based proteins meaning the number of proteins provided by the chicken meat in this recipe may be less compared to what a first glance at the ingredients list would indicate.

On the other hand, garlic is a member of the allium family, which can be toxic to dogs if consumed in large quantities.

Generally, Blue Buffalo aims at using the finest natural ingredients that offer a good dose of a nutritional boost to your pup while eliminating allergy triggers. It’s free of corn, soy, wheat, artificial colors, and preservatives, known to trigger reactions in dogs with sensitivity issues.

Pros and Cons

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of this Blue Buffalo dog formula:

Pros

Cons

Contains real chicken meat

Contains pea protein

Uses wholesome whole grains, fruits, and veggies

Contains garlic

High content of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids

Quite pricey compared to Iams

Contains Yucca Schidigera Extract that reduces odor in your dog’s waste

 

Includes LifeSource Bits that boost your pup’s immune health

 

No corn, wheat, soy, artificial preservatives and fillers

 

Iams Ingredients

IAMS Minichunks Chicken and Whole Grain Rice formula is another ideal recipe for adult dogs. Let’s have a brief analysis of what it entails.

Listed below are the key ingredients of Iams:

  • Chicken
  • Ground whole grain corn
  • Ground whole grain sorghum
  • Chicken by-product meal
  • Dried plain beet pulp
  • Natural flavor
  • Flaxseed
  • Dried egg product
  • Chicken fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols)
  • Caramel color
  • Biotin
  • Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1)
  • Vitamin B12 supplement
  • Vitamin A supplement
  • Niacin
  • Riboflavin supplement (source of vitamin B2)

Iams prioritizes farm-reared chicken as the powerhouse for proteins and amino acids in this formulation.

Unfortunately, this recipe contains a considerable amount of grains. Corn, a starchy food that many dogs with sensitivity issues can’t tolerate, is the second ingredient. It is known to trigger allergic reactions in dogs with sensitive skin and stomach, so its inclusion in this recipe is a significant drawback.

The recipe also has sorghum, whose nutritional profile is similar to that of corn. However, sorghum is gluten-free, meaning it can help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic canines.

The recipe also has chicken by-products among its first key ingredients, which are substandard meat products mainly from slaughterhouse waste. Although they are derived from substandard products, they have a higher protein content than choice cuts of a whole chicken.

Flaxseed, another key ingredient, is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acid and increases the amount of dietary fiber in the recipe.

Healthy fats in this recipe are derived from chicken fat, a good source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Chicken fat is also important in maintaining healthy skin and coat in canines.

On the downside, this formulation includes caramel color, which is an artificial coloring that, although it doesn’t affect the recipe’s safety, can trigger allergic reactions in highly sensitive pups.

Another major controversial ingredient in this formula is beet pulp. On the one hand, some people argue that beet pulp is a good source of dietary fiber and plays a vital role in maintaining blood sugar levels. On the other hand, others argue that beet pulp is a little more than just a filler food.

In terms of ingredients, Blue Buffalo appears to use lots of holistic ingredients compared to Iams.

Pros and Cons

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of this formulation:

Pros

Cons

Have a high animal-based protein content

Contains grains

Rich in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids

Contains chicken by-products

Affordable

Contains beet pulp

Blue Buffalo vs. Iams: Nutritional Value

Every brand of dog food comes with varying nutritional values, expressed in weight in pounds, calorie value, dry matter content, or any other acceptable metrics.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the body that regulates the sale of animal feeds and drugs, requires each brand to state the precise nutritional content or proportions of all their ingredients in their packages.

The rationale behind this report, as emphasized by AAFCO, is to provide a better understanding of what to expect from each brand, creating a basis for comparison. It’s easier to make an informed choice when the ingredients’ nutritional value is listed on the packaging.

There are plenty of ingredients to look out for in a recipe’s nutritional value, but the primary ones are crude fat, crude protein, and crude fiber.

AAFCO requires brands to provide a guaranteed analysis stating the minimum of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum crude fiber and crude moisture.

Here’s an analysis of our chosen recipes from the two brands:

 

Blue Buffalo

Iams

Crude protein

24%

25%

Crude fat

14%

14%

Crude fiber

5%

4%

These percentages are expressed on a dry matter basis (what’s left after moisture is extracted from the formulation). Nutritionally, these two brands present a slight variation in their figures.

Crude Protein

Crude protein refers to a measure of the protein content expressed based on nitrogen content in the protein foods in the recipe, which is calculated based on the protein present in the food sample regardless of its source, whether animal or plant-based.

AAFCO requires any adult dog food to contain at least 18% crude protein on a dry matter basis. Puppies and nursing mothers need a higher crude protein content, a minimum of approximately 22.5%.

Our two brands meet the AAFCO set standards. Blue Buffalo has 24% crude protein while Iams has 25%. Although Iams seems to have a higher protein content, the variance is slightly negligible and doesn’t warrant a huge difference between the two brands.

If you aren’t certain about your dog’s protein needs depending on their age, size, and prevailing health conditions, you’ll want to check with your vet. Vet advice ensures your dog gets the right nutrition as per their needs.

When looking for crude protein content, don’t focus only on the quantity, but you should also look at the quality. Quality here means the digestibility and bioavailability of the proteins, which comes from a perfect blend of animal and plant-based proteins.

Protein is important in canines for the following reasons:

  • Protein is a rich source of amino acids.
  • It’s vital in strengthening their muscles and developing healthy skin, hair, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.
  • Proteins play a vital role in hormone production.
  • It supports your puppy’s immune system.
  • Helps in the repair of damaged body tissues.

Crude Fat

Crude fat refers to the mixture of fat-soluble materials present in a food sample. For dry dog food, crude fat should range between 8-18% on a dry matter basis. The recommended minimum here is 12%.

Blue Buffalo and Iams present a tie of 14% in crude fat content. Crude fat in dogs food is important in:

  • Promoting skin health
  • Improving the palatability of the food
  • Aiding in the absorption, storage, and transportation of essential fat-soluble vitamins
  • Producing prostaglandins which helps reduce inflammations

Crude Fiber

Crude fiber refers to a measure of fiber present in a dog’s food. Generally, adult dog food should have a crude fiber content ranging between 2-5%, while the recommended maximum is 5%, but 6-10% is often considered a high fiber content.

Our two samples meet AAFCO’s maximum crude fiber limit. Blue Buffalo has 5% while Iams has 4%. Crude fiber is important for the following reasons:

  • Aids in digestion and controls diarrhea and constipation while reducing your dog’s. exposure to colon cancer.
  • Helps in weight management.
  • Improves diabetes mellitus in diabetic dogs.

Therefore, these brands only have a slight variance in their nutritional value. But considering the ingredients used to formulate these recipes, Blue Buffalo takes the lead because most of its ingredients are holistic and dog friendly.

Blue Buffalo vs. Iams: Factors To Consider

Flavor

For your pup to enjoy a specific recipe, it must be flavorful. Therefore, your choice of a dog formula should also be influenced by its taste.

Both Blue Buffalo and Iams use chicken as their primary source of animal-based protein. Generally, chicken is known for its excellent flavor that most canines love. However, Blue Buffalo’s taste of chicken is somehow slightly compromised by the inclusion of several plant-based protein sources such as pea protein and flaxseeds.

Both recipes have a considerable amount of chicken fat, as well as other tasty, healthy fats. Although they seem to tie in flavor, Blue Buffalo has a significant drawback with its LifeSource Bits.

Many dogs don’t like the taste of the LifeSource Bits found in most Blue Buffalo recipes. However, if the flavor of LifeSource Bits kibble doesn’t entice your pup, you can get Blue Buffalo recipes free of these additional bits.

Generally, both brands feed you with various flavor options to choose from based on your preferences. Here we can say it’s a tie for the Blue Buffalo and Iams recipes.

Food Options

Although Blue Buffalo has only been in the pet food industry for close to two decades now, it has witnessed tremendous growth in its production volume. As earlier mentioned, this brand has ventured into different product lines such as Basics, Freedom, and Life Protection Formula, among others. Each of these product lines comes with a wide range of recipes to choose from.

Generally, Blue Buffalo has over 250 recipes, including dry and wet dog food and a variety of treats, which are formulated with your dog’s interests at heart. As a result, they use quality, holistic ingredients. Therefore, if you want to establish a healthy rotational feeding cycle for your pup using foods from the same brand, you can go for the Blue Buffalo brand.

On the other hand, although Iams has been in the pet food industry for almost eight decades, it has maintained a minimal product line. Compared to Blue Buffalo, Iams has fewer dog food options, approximately 40 recipes.

Iams groups their formulas based on the dog’s age and size or unique dietary needs.

Another plus for Blue Buffalo is its unique collection of dog treats which come in handy during dog training. However, Iams doesn’t have treats to offer.

Therefore, if you’re looking for versatility in your dog’s recipes, Blue Buffalo will be your ideal choice.

Price

It can be hard to compare the prices between different pet food brands because different manufacturers use diverse packaging. Additionally, different food brands have varying amounts of moisture, affecting their average cost, especially when calculating cost per pound.

However, Blue Buffalo recipes appear to be slightly expensive, even at first glance, then their Iams counterparts.

Let’s compare our two samples.

A 6 lb (2.72 kg) bag of Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken and Brown Rice Formula sells at $22.99, approximately $3.83 / lb. On the other hand, a 30lb (13.61 kg) bag of Iams Minichunks Chicken and Whole Grain Rice Formula sells at $37.46, approximately $1.25 / lb.

The price variance between the two brands is quite significant for a dog owner working with a tight budget. Therefore, if affordability is your main concern, Iams is your best brand.

Value for Money

When discussing value for money, we compare the nutritional benefits your pooch derives from a meal based on the price you pay for it.

Both brands offer a good nutritional value at modest prices depending on your budget and your dog’s nutritional needs. When looking at the value for your money, focus more on the nutritional value of the sample.

Although Iams is more affordable than Blue Buffalo, its blend of ingredients is of a lesser quality than its counterpart. Therefore, Iams doesn’t offer a good value for every dollar.

If you consider the nutritional value dogs will deliver from each brand, Blue Buffalo takes the lead as the pet food brand that offers good value for money. Every dollar you spend on Blue Buffalo recipes is worth the nutritional value your pooch receives from consuming the food.

Although slightly expensive, Blue Buffalo recipes are worth every dollar you spend on them.

Product Safety and Recalls

Product safety refers to the suitability of a recipe for consumption by pets without causing any harm to them, while product recall refers to a request to return, replace, or exchange a product after the manufacturer or consumer watch groups discover defects that would interfere with a product’s use.

Generally, companies make recalls on their products that may have foreseen safety issues or defects. The importance of a product recall is to give the company time to conduct further studies on the foreseen issues, effect necessary changes, and ensure the product is safe for consumption.

Both Blue Buffalo and Iams have had several recalls on their products throughout their production history.

Blue Buffalo has had approximately nine recalls owing to various reasons such as:

  • Melamine contamination
  • High levels of vitamin D
  • Increased levels of beef thyroid hormone
  • Presence of aluminum
  • Foil package issues
  • Salmonella risk
  • Mold risk
  • Presence of Propylene Glycol

On the other hand, Iams has had approximately two recalls, mainly due to salmonella poisoning.

At a glance, Blue Buffalo has had more recalls than Iams. Recalls are inevitable because mistakes are bound to happen with any brand. However, the frequency of recalls for Blue Buffalo has been quite high over the years.

However, this doesn’t mean that Blue Buffalo dog recipes aren’t safe for consumption. This brand’s aggressive growth and choice to outsource food manufacturing to meet its production demands may be the driving forces behind the increased recall rates.

Iams takes the lead when it comes to food safety and recalls.

Blue Buffalo vs. Iams: Which Formula Is Right for Your Dog?

While both brands strive to provide you with the healthiest recipes for your dog, there is a huge gap between them. Blue Buffalo uses the finest natural ingredients such as real farm-raised chicken, lamb, and fish as its first ingredients, followed by a blend of wholesome grains, fruit, and veggies.

Blue Buffalo recipes are free of allergens such as corn, soy, wheat, artificial colors, fillers, and preservatives, making them ideal even for highly sensitive dogs. If your dog has poor digestion and skin or stomach sensitivities, you can choose an ideal recipe from Blue Buffalo’s extensive collection. These recipes are ideal for sensitive dogs, as well as other dogs regardless of their dietary needs.

On the other hand, Iams also uses a good blend of ingredients, but a good number of them are controversial, such as corn, chicken by-products, and caramel color. These controversial ingredients are known to trigger allergic reactions among sensitive dogs.

Therefore, Iams recipes are best suited only for dogs that have expressed no sensitivity to grains.

Here’s a quick rundown of the variations between these two superior dog food brands:

If You Want

You Should Choose

The best ingredients

Blue Buffalo

The best nutritional value

Blue Buffalo

An affordable brand

Iams

Most flavorful brand

Either

Variety of options

Blue Buffalo

A brand with few recalls

Iams

Good value for money

Blue Buffalo

Final Thoughts

Both brands produce quality dog food, but given Blue Buffalo’s holistic ingredients, high nutritional value, and a wide array of options, we choose this brand as our top recommendation. Most Blue Buffalo recipes appear to contain real meat as the first ingredient, followed by a blend of wholesome grains, fruits, and veggies. Blue Buffalo takes the edge over Iams by providing good value for money.

The advantage of Iams is its price. If your budget is tight, you can go for Iams recipes. However, it’s up to you to decide. Choose what works for you and your pup.

Sources

Andrew

My name is Andrew, and I've been around dogs my entire life. Look at my profile picture and, you see me as a little kid with my family's two German Shepherds. That's how my life with dogs started, and ever since, I've been both living and working with dogs.

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