Blue Buffalo vs. Nutro: Pros & Cons of Both

dog and a speech bubble"Blue Buffalo vs. Nutro"

Choosing the right food for your canine companion can be easy if one of the brands has superior ingredients to the other. However, the task can be overwhelming if you’re torn between two seemingly superior brands such as Blue Buffalo and Nutro. Though they both rank high in the dog food spectrum, one has to take over the superiority battle.

Blue Buffalo has LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is expensive. On the other hand, Nutro is affordable and uses natural and non-GMO ingredients, but the ingredient lists can be misleading in some cases.

This article will analyze these two superior pup food brands by comparing their pros and cons, as well as look at a breakdown of their primary ingredients to help you choose the right food for your canine companion. We’ll also give a verdict, so keep reading!

Blue Buffalo vs. Nutro: Brand History

Before discussing the specifics of each brand, it’s important to understand each brand’s history. Evaluating a company’s history helps you understand the changes it has undergone over the years, including its commitment to nutritional excellence.

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo dog food brand was founded in 2002 by the Bishop family, who were on a journey to finding a nutritious recipe for their ailing Airedale terrier, ‘Blue.’ They aimed to formulate a dog formula that would feature holistic natural ingredients, wholesome veggies and fruits, and real meat as the primary protein source. While they accomplished their mission, their dog later died.

Since the launch of its first recipe, this brand has diversified its product line over the years to produce different formulas looking into the specific dietary needs of different dogs. Blue Buffalo recipes are free from corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, and preservatives, which trigger allergic reactions in sensitive dogs.

Today, Blue Buffalo formulas are available in different categories: Freedom, Basics, Life Protection Formula, and Wilderness. The brand has over 250 recipes, including dry and wet foods and various treats, giving you a wide array of nutritious formulas to choose from.

To boost their recipes’ nutritional value and thrive in the competitive dog food spectrum, Blue Buffalo came up with additional resources by incorporating LifeSource Bits into their recipe, which is a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to give your pup a nutritional boost.

The LifeSource Bits are a significant attraction for dog owners seeking to get a superior quality brand for their canines, giving Blue Buffalo recipes a competitive edge over their counterparts.

However, in its history, Blue Buffalo has had about 9 product recalls due to cases such as molds, salmonella risk, elated levels of beef thyroid hormone, and the presence of aluminum metal, among others.

Pros and Cons

Here are a few pros and cons associated with this brand:

Pros

Cons

Completely corn, soy, wheat, artificial preservatives, and fillers free

Product safety compromised

Has LifeSource Bits

Relatively pricey

Uses wholesome natural ingredients.

 

Rich in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids

 

Nutro

Nutro traces its origin to 1926 when John Saleen bought a dog food manufacturing company from an Englishman and rebranded it Nutro. The company started as a small establishment focusing on making healthy kibble for the residents of South California.

Nutro was family-owned for about 50 years, after which it was sold to Ed Brown in 1976. In 1985 with the help of Dr. Sharon Machlik, the company introduced its first Max line of foods which it marketed through consumer education.

Mars later acquired the company and incorporated it in 2007. Since its acquisition by Mars Inc., this brand has undergone tremendous changes that have transformed it into one of the most popular brands today.

From a small establishment into one of the superior brands today, Nutro employed a unique marketing concept that saw it secure a place in the dog food spectrum. While other brands used traditional advertising methods boasting of how nutritious their recipes are, Nutro followed a different approach.

Nutro produced pamphlets and other educational materials to enlighten consumers about the nutritional needs of their dogs. While educating their target consumers, they positioned their products to appear as the immediate solution to the consumers’ problems. By doing this, they attracted a wider consumer base which saw their rise in popularity.

However, for years Nutro has used a controversial tactic in its ingredients list called ingredient splitting. Ingredient splitting is when a manufacturer takes an ingredient and calls it by different names on the ingredient list, which disguises the real amount of that ingredient present in the recipe.

Ingredient splitting makes a misleading ingredient list that can lead a dog owner into making a wrong purchase decision.

Since its establishment, Nutro has always incorporated natural ingredients in its recipes, and this principle still holds on to date. Nutro strives to help pets live a healthy and happy life through its wide range of dry and wet dog food as well as a variety of treats.

Despite being in the industry for decades, Nutro has had fewer recalls compared to Blue Buffalo, with approximately 3 recalls on its dog food.

Pros and Cons

Here are Nutro’s advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

Cons

Uses natural ingredients

In some cases, the ingredients list can be misleading

No GMO ingredients

 

Believes in educating consumers

 

Blue Buffalo vs. Nutro: Basic Similarities

These two superior dog food brands have a lot in common. Their significant similarities include:

  • Both recipes are corn, wheat, and soy-free, and they don’t incorporate artificial colors and fillers that can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive dogs.
  • Both Blue Buffalo and Nutro use real meat as their primary protein source. You’ll find most of their recipes containing real farm-raised chicken, lamb, duck, and salmon as their first ingredient.
  • They use wholesome fruits and veggies to add to their nutritional value.
  • Both brands are available in a wide range of dry and canned dog foods and treats to choose from.
  • Both brands have been subject to national recalls due to various reasons.
  • Another appealing similarity with these brands is their wide availability, as you can easily access them in brick-and-mortar shops as well as online stores.
  • Blue Buffalo added LifeSource Bits to its recipes that attracted a good number of nutrition-conscious dog owners. On the other hand, Nutro used educational marketing techniques to win a wide consumer base.

Now that you know the history and similarities between the two brands, let’s take a closer look at some of the popular formulas from each brand.

Pros and Cons of Blue Buffalo Formulas

Given the wide range of formulas available from both brands, we’ll pick the top-selling ones for our comparison.

Here are our top picks:

Let’s get started.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice

Pros

Cons

High protein deboned chicken is the first ingredient

Contains pea protein (plant-based protein)

Contains LifeSource Bits

Contains garlic

No corn, soy, wheat, or artificial fillers

Has dried tomato pomace

Contains Yucca Schidigera extract

 

Rich in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids

 

Uses holistic natural ingredients

 

Nutritional Information

Nutritional information in a pet food brand is vital to help you understand what your dog will be getting from a particular recipe, while forming the basis for comparison between formulas.

When it comes to pet food, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requires manufacturers to indicate the content of various nutritional components, the most vital among them being crude protein, crude fiber, and crude fat. Other vital nutritional components in packaged formulas are carbohydrates and moisture.

Therefore, to comply with the AAFCO standards, brands must indicate the minimum crude protein, crude fat, and maximum crude fiber.

  • Crude protein: 24%
  • Crude fat: 14%
  • Crude fiber: 5%

Key Ingredients

  • Deboned chicken
  • Chicken meal
  • Brown rice
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Pea starch
  • Flaxseed
  • Chicken fat
  • Dried tomato pomace
  • Natural flavor
  • Peas
  • Pea protein
  • Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal
  • Potatoes
  • Dried chicory root
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Barley grass
  • Parsley
  • Turmeric
  • Dried kelp
  • Yucca Schidigera Extract

This adult dog recipe features real meat as its first ingredient. Farm-raised deboned chicken forms the primary source of proteins and amino acids essential for your canine to build and maintain strong muscles, repair damaged tissues, and improve general immunity.

As if the deboned chicken isn’t enough, this recipe is further enriched with a chicken meal to boost its protein and amino acid content.

The deboned chicken and chicken meal are perfectly blended with brown rice rich in dietary fiber, which is important in promoting your canine’s gut health. Additionally, potatoes and sweet potatoes present in this recipe add to its dietary fiber content and are also a good source of carbohydrates and vitamins.

The recipe also has a significant amount of flaxseeds rich in plant-based proteins and omega 3 & 6 fatty acids essential for your pup’s skin and coat health. Chicory root, another key ingredient, helps in maintaining optimal gut health.

Other plant-based key ingredients in this recipe include cranberries, blueberries, carrots, barley grass, and turmeric. It also boasts another key ingredient Yucca Schidigera Extract, that effectively reduces odor from your canine’s waste.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice are supplemented with LifeSource Bits to give your canine companion a nutritional boost. Your canine will love this recipe’s natural flavor enhanced by chicken fat preserved with mixed Tocopherols. Chicken fat also helps dogs with sensitive skin and stomach.

With this recipe, you don’t have to worry about corn, soy, wheat, and artificial fillers and preservatives that may trigger allergic reactions in sensitive dogs.

The main cons of this formula are the inclusion of pea protein and garlic:

  • The formula contains pea, a rich source of plant-based proteins, which most dog owners believe skews the actual animal-based protein content as indicated in the ingredients list. While this isn’t always the case, pea protein isn’t as high in amino acids as animal-based protein.
  • Another controversial ingredient is garlic, a member of the allium family, which is believed to cause poisoning in large quantities.
  • Dried tomato pomace is another questionable ingredient in this formula which some people believe is a non-nutritional filler.

Although this formula is quite pricey compared to others in the market, its nutritional content is worth the extra dollar you spend on it.

Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Chicken, Potatoes, and Peas Adult Dog Food

Pros

Cons

Grain-free

Contains peas

Contains protein-rich chicken as the first ingredient

Has tapioca starch

Crafted with LifeSource Bits

Contains dried tomato pomace

Contains no chicken by-products, corn, soy, wheat, and artificial fillers

 

High fiber content

 

Nutritional Information

  • Crude protein: 24%
  • Crude fat: 14%
  • Crude fiber: 6%

Key Ingredients

  • Deboned chicken
  • Chicken meal
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Tapioca starch
  • Pea starch
  • Chicken fat
  • Dried tomato pomace
  • Pea protein
  • Flaxseed
  • Turkey meal
  • Natural flavor
  • Dried chicory root
  • Pea fiber
  • Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Barley grass
  • Parsley
  • Turmeric
  • Dried kelp
  • Yucca Schidigera Extract

Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Chicken Adult Dog Food is a delicious 100% grain-free and gluten-free dry dog food specially formulated for adult dogs.

Being 100% grain-free, this recipe is ideal for dog owners with sensitive pups, as it eliminates grains, artificial fillers, and preservatives known to cause reactions in dogs with stomach and skin sensitivities. Therefore, if you’re looking for a nutritious kibble for your sensitive pup, you should try out this formula from Blue Buffalo.

It starts with real deboned chicken as the first ingredient, which is further enriched with chicken meal and turkey meal to help your adult canine companion build and maintain strong muscles.

Potatoes included in this recipe are a good source of dietary fiber good for optimal gut health, and are rich in carbohydrates, antioxidants, and vitamins.

Chicken fat, another key ingredient, adds a natural chicken flavor to this recipe giving your pup something to wag their tail about. If your pup has skin or coat issues, chicken fat goes a long way in maintaining their skin’s health.

Flaxseed is a rich source of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids essential in maintaining healthy and lustrous skin. Dried chicory root is a prebiotic essential for optimal gut health.

The holistic natural plant-based ingredients such as sweet potatoes, carrots, cranberries, blueberries, and peas offer your canine companion a good balance of nutrients to keep them active and fueled for their daily activities.

Don’t forget that this formula is enriched with LifeSource Bits to support your puppy’s immune system, and Yucca Schidigera Extract reduces the unpleasant odor from their waste.

Some controversial ingredients in this formula include:

  • Pea protein, which some dog owners believe reduces the overall amount of meat-based proteins in the diet.
  • Dried tomato pomace, which is seen as a non-nutritious filler.
  • Tapioca starch, a source of carbohydrates, is often seen as a low-grade filler due to lack of other nutrients.

Generally, this grain-free is ideal for adult dogs from all breeds; small, medium, and large.

Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Diet Salmon and Potato Recipe

Pros

Cons

Features protein-rich real salmon

Contains tapioca starch

Grain-free

Has canola oil

Limited ingredients (no chicken, beef)

Has pea protein

Made with LifeSource Bits

Has a fishy smell

Has Yucca Schidigera Extract

 

Nutritional Information

  • Crude protein: 20%
  • Crude fat: 12%
  • Crude fiber: 6%

Key Ingredients

  • Deboned salmon
  • Tapioca starch
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Salmon meal
  • Potato starch
  • Canola oil
  • Pea protein
  • Pea fiber
  • Natural flavor
  • Fish oil
  • Alfalfa Meal
  • Pumpkin
  • Dried chicory root
  • Flaxseed
  • Parsley
  • Kelp
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Barley grass
  • Yucca Schidigera Extract
  • Turmeric

The limited ingredient grain-free formula comes with no chicken and beef products to reduce sensitivity issues in your pup, which makes it easy for you to point out the allergens your sensitive canine companion reacts to.

Like other Blue Buffalo recipes, it features real meat as the primary protein powerhouse, which includes real deboned salmon as the first ingredient. Real salmon is followed by a chain of nutritious and easily digestible plant-based ingredients such as potatoes, peas, and pumpkins that improve digestion and promote optimal gut health.

Salmon meal, another key ingredient in this recipe, is a rich source of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids vital for your pup’s healthy skin and coat. Fish oil is also rich in Omega fatty acids and plays a role in promoting the overall health of your dog’s skin, and is a remedy for itchy and dry skin while relieving joint pains.

The formula is also packed with a load of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from the LifeSource Bits, while meeting the AAFCO’s adult dog’s maintenance nutrition profile making it ideal for adult dogs across all breeds.

On the downside, incorporating a wide range of plant-based ingredients such as peas and pumpkins seems to lower the recipe’s protein content (20%), which is slightly lower than in other Blue Buffalo recipes.

Additionally, some dog owners view tapioca starch and canola oil as low-grade fillers that aren’t necessary for dog food.

Since this recipe has a significant amount of salmon, salmon meal, and fish oil, it tends to maintain a fishy smell, which might not be pleasing to some dog parents and their dogs, especially if they aren’t used to fish-related products.

While this recipe is good for sensitive dogs, it doesn’t have a lot to offer nutritionally, as its crude protein and crude fat content, 20%, and 12%, respectively, are lower compared to other recipes from the same brand.

Therefore, if your pup is highly sensitive, this recipe will do well for you and your dog. Otherwise, it would be better if you found something a little more nutritious.

Pros and Cons of Nutro Formulas

Here are our top picks from Nutro:

Nutro Natural Choice Small & Toy Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice

Pros

Cons

No GMO ingredients

Misleading amount of rice

Has a crunchy texture to improve dental health

Dried egg product can cause digestive issues

Lots of superfoods like dried kales, spinach, and pumpkin

 

Nutritional Information

  • Crude protein: 24%
  • Crude fat: 16%
  • Crude fiber: 3.5%

Key Ingredients

  • Chicken
  • Chicken meal
  • Whole grain barley
  • Split peas
  • Brewers rice
  • Whole grain brown rice
  • Chicken fat
  • Natural flavor
  • Rice bran
  • Whole grain oatmeal
  • Whole flaxseed
  • Dried plain beet pulp
  • Dried tomato pomace
  • Dried egg product
  • Dried pumpkin
  • Dried kale
  • Dried spinach

This recipe is specially formulated for small and toy breeds aged one year and older, which starts with chicken as the primary protein source. Chicken meal and chicken fat are also added to the recipe to give small dogs a good protein foundation while still providing various essential amino acids.

Ingredient splitting is evident in this recipe, where the ingredient list contains three different types of rice: brewers rice, whole grain rice, and rice barn, which might be an attempt to mask the amount of rice present in the formula, and can be misleading to the dog owners.

Besides the three types of rice, the recipe also contains lots of superfoods such as dried kale, spinach, and pumpkin, which are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.

There is also dried oatmeal and beet pulp for fiber, and flaxseed for Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. The ingredients in this recipe are real, recognizable, and GMO-free, and there are no chicken by-products, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial fillers in this formula.

The recipe has many antioxidants for healthy immunity and a significant amount of dietary fiber for healthy digestion.

A unique aspect worth noting here is the formula’s crunchy texture vital for dental health, which helps clean teeth and curbs plaque buildup.

On the downside, some dog owners consider dried pulp and tomato paste as low-grade, non-nutritious filler, while the dried egg product can cause digestive issues if present in large quantities.

Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe Small Bites

Pros

Cons

Grain-free

Contains potato protein

Limited ingredients (10 ingredients or less)

Low overall protein content

GMO-free products

Misleading amount of potato

Comes in small-sized kibble for easier chewing

 

Features pasture-raised lamb as the first ingredient

 

Nutritional Information

  • Crude protein: 20%
  • Crude fat: 14%
  • Crude fiber: 3.5%

Key Ingredients

  • Deboned lamb
  • Lamb meal
  • Chickpeas
  • Dried potatoes
  • Dried sweet potato
  • Lentils
  • Potato starch
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Natural flavor
  • Potato protein
  • Dried plain beet pulp
  • Niacin supplement
  • Biotin
  • Vitamin E supplement
  • Iron Amino Acid Chelate
  • Selenium
  • Riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2)
  • Copper Amino Acid Chelate
  • Vitamin B12 supplement

Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe Small Bites is crafted as a limited ingredient, grain-free formula suitable for highly sensitive pups. With its limited number of ingredients (uses ten or less), you can easily pinpoint the allergens your pup reacts to.

While the ingredients list appears to be longer for a limited ingredient formula, it’s due to the additional natural flavors, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants included to boost your pup’s immunity.

This clean recipe uses real pasture-raised lamb as the first ingredient. Lamb meal, rich in protein and amino acids, is added to the deboned lamb to boost the recipe’s protein content.

Like other Nutro recipes, ingredient splitting is with potatoes where there is dried potato, potato starch, and potato protein. Based on the guaranteed analysis, this recipe has a lower protein content (20%), showing that the actual amount of lamb present isn’t as much as it’s made to appear on the ingredients list.

The potato protein (plant-based protein) seems to skew the real meat-based protein in the recipe. An added advantage of this recipe is its small-sized kibble for easy chewing and improved digestion.

Nutro Natural Choice Adult Healthy Weight Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe

Pros

Cons

Contains real pasture-raised as the first ingredient

Misleading amount of rice

Crafted to support healthy weight loss

Contains pea protein

Non-GMO ingredients

Contains dried tomato pomace

High fiber

 

Nutritional information

  • Crude protein: 24%
  • Crude fat: 7%
  • Crude fiber:11%

Key Ingredients

  • Deboned lamb
  • Chicken meal
  • Whole grain barley
  • Rice bran
  • Whole grain brown rice
  • Powdered cellulose
  • Split peas
  • Whole grain sorghum
  • Pea protein
  • Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal
  • Dried plain beet pulp
  • Chicken fat
  • Chia seed
  • Dried coconut
  • Dried tomato pomace
  • Dried egg product
  • Dried pumpkin
  • Dried kale
  • Dried spinach

This recipe has been crafted to support healthy weight loss through its blend of protein and fiber, and features real lamb as the first ingredient, which comes as the primary source of proteins. Lamb meat is then enriched with chicken meal and chicken fat to strengthen the protein and amino acids base.

Despite the large meat-based protein base, this recipe also has pea protein that reduces its overall protein content.

Rice, a major ingredient in this formula, has been subjected to ingredient splitting, leaving one uncertain about the actual amount present.

This formula is enriched with essential amino acids, natural fiber, and antioxidants to support your pup’s immune system.

The crude fat content is low to foster healthy weight loss, while the fiber content is high to aid in smooth digestion. The natural fiber blends well with the protein in this recipe to promote weight loss in heavy-weight dogs.

Conclusion

Both brands produce superior quality recipes, while using holistic natural ingredients and are free from corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, artificial fillers, artificial colors, or nasty animal by-products.

Although their prices vary, the margin is quite negligible, so their prices can’t form the basis of your decision. Therefore, the final decision lies in your hands, as it’s up to you to choose a brand that perfectly suits your dog’s needs.

However, other factors remaining constant, we’d ultimately choose Nutro over Blue Buffalo based on product safety and recalls. Nutro has had fewer recalls than Blue Buffalo.

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.

Recent Posts