The Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free product line includes 12 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.
- Freedom Grain Free Adult Lamb [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Senior (2 stars) [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Large Breed Beef [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Large Breed Lamb [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Adult Beef (4 stars) [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Adult Chicken (4 stars) [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Puppy Chicken (4.5 stars) [G]
- Freedom Grain Free Small Breed Chicken (4 stars) [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Large Breed Chicken (4 stars) [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Healthy Weight Chicken (3 stars) [M]
- Freedom Grain Free Large Breed Puppy Chicken (4 stars) [G]
- Freedom Grain Free Small Breed Puppy Chicken (4.5 stars) [G]
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Adult Lamb recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Deboned lamb, turkey meal, tapioca starch, potatoes, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), chicken meal, tomato pomace (source of lycopene), potato starch, flaxseed (source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids), natural flavor, pea protein, alfalfa meal, potassium chloride, canola oil (source of omega 6 fatty acids), choline chloride, dried chicory root, salt, calcium carbonate, caramel, dl-methionine, sweet potatoes, carrots, mixed tocopherols (a natural preservative), garlic, parsley, kelp, blueberries, cranberries, barley grass, Yucca schidigera extract, turmeric, vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, iron amino acid chelate, zinc amino acid chelate, zinc sulfate, oil of rosemary, l-carnitine, l-lysine, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), 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 extract, folic acid (vitamin B9), calcium iodate
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.7%
Red items indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||24%||16%||52%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||21%||33%||46%|
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 turkey meal. Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.
The third ingredient is tapioca starch, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.
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 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 sixth 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 seventh ingredient is chicken meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
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 potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest 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 eight notable exceptions…
First, 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, this recipe includes 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.
In addition, 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, this recipe contains canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because it can sometimes (but not always) be derived from genetically modified rapeseed.
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.
Additionally, 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.
We also note the inclusion of caramel, 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?
Next, this food also lists garlic, which can be a controversial item. Although many favor the ingredient for its claimed health benefits, garlic has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.2
So, one must weigh the potential benefits of feeding garlic against its proven tendency to cause subclinical damage to the red blood cells of the animal.
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 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.
The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 24%, a fat level of 16% and estimated carbohydrates of about 52%.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 26% and a mean fat level of 15%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 51% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 57%.
Near-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, flaxseed, pea protein and alfalfa meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of chicken or turkey meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.
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.
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.