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Are you looking for a grain-free and fish-based formula for your cat? There are many different formulas out there that claim to have fish as the main ingredient. The problem comes in when you are trying to determine just how true the claims are. This is because you cannot tell much about an ingredient just by looking at the ingredients list.
One of the formulas fish-based and grain free formulas available in the market is the Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Fish (dry) formula. This formula also contains no poultry or meat by-products, soy, wheat and corn, and no artificial ingredients.
Is this formula as healthy as advertised?
Ingredients used to make this formula
Deboned Whitefish, Salmon Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Peas, Potato Starch, Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Chicken Meal, Pea Fiber, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Chicken Flavor, Powdered Cellulose, Taurine, Alfalfa Meal, Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Cranberries, Blueberries, Apples, Blackberries, Pomegranate, Spinach, Pumpkin, Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Turmeric, L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Dried Chicory Root, Oil of Rosemary, 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, Dried Yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.
A closer look at the first five ingredients
Deboned Whitefish: Whitefish is a species of tilefish native to the eastern Pacific Ocean. This ingredient is likely included for its protein content as well as very healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While this ingredient probably isn’t something most cats would eat in a natural or wild environment, the ingredient does contain some very essential nutrient sources. Some cat owners worry about the mercury content in fish since all fish contains some level of mercury, but the health risk is considered to be pretty low.
Salmon Meal: Salmon is an excellent source of high quality proteins for cats and is extremely rich in healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Some people worry about mercury levels in fish. It’s true that all fish contains some degree of mercury, the level in salmon is much lower than other types of fish and the FDA doesn’t believe it causes any problems at all. Most salmon in cat food is farmed salmon, but higher end cat food (especially those labeled “natural”) can often times be fished from natural lakes and streams. The biggest problem with fish ingredients, including salmon, is if the fish includes an antioxidant called ethoxyquin (EMQ). It is believe that ethoxyquin could be very harmful to cats and other animals. Always make sure you are using “Ethoxyquin free” cat food blends when they include fish ingredients. When in doubt, call the customer service number and ask.
Menhaden Fish Meal: This is a meal obtained from processing fish of the menhaden species. It is a good source of high quality fish protein and Omega-3 essential fatty acids, including EPA, DHA, and arachionic acid. Some people worry about mercury levels in fish. It’s true that all fish contains some degree of mercury, the level in salmon is much lower than other types of fish and the FDA doesn’t believe it is cause for much concern. The biggest problem with fish ingredients, including herring, is if the fish includes an antioxidant called ethoxyquin (EMQ). It is believe that ethoxyquin could be very harmful to cats and other animals. Always make sure you are using “Ethoxyquin free” cat food blends when they include fish ingredients. When in doubt, call the customer service number and ask.
Peas: Peas are becoming more and more common in pet foods today, especially those listed as grain-free, holistic, or natural pet foods. While peas are certainly not grains, they serve much the same purpose. It mostly acts as a filler and a cheap way to increase the protein percentage of the food. However, cats receive almost no nutritional value from peas. Since cats are obligate carnivores, they require proteins from meat based ingredients. There is very little research that has been performed on the long term effects of cats consuming peas. We do know that peas can cause runny poop or digestion issues in dogs, but the full effect on cats remains a bit of an unknown. At best, this ingredient will act as a filler and will not provide much nutritional value, if any, to your cat.
Potato Starch: Potato starch is starch extracted from potatoes and is usually only included to assist with the consistency and texture of the food. Cats generally do not receive much nutritional value from this ingredient, although it may sometimes aid in proper digestion.
Other ingredients used
Potatoes: Potatoes provide a lot of carbs and unfortunately, cats do not digest carbs well and it can also lead to weight gain. This ingredient is becoming more popular in “grain-free” cat foods because while potatoes are not grains, they serve much the same purpose by acting as a non-nutritious filler. The good news is potatoes are complex carbs. These complex carbs are easier to digest than whole grains and also don’t spike blood sugar levels like the simple carbs do. But, anyway you cut it… carbs are carbs and cats don’t need them. This is a rather non-nutritious ingredient.
Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): Chicken fat is a quality source of essential fatty acids and an excellent source of energy. Fat has a positive effect on the immune system and plays a beneficial role in stress response. Essential fatty acids are required for proper growth, reproduction, normal skin structure and a healthy coat. Because chicken fat contains virtually no protein, it’s use does not cause allergic reactions associated with the use of fresh chicken or chicken meal which contain high amounts of protein. Many times, mixed tocopherols, which are a natural source of Vitamin E activity, are used as a natural preservative to maintain freshness. This is considered a higher quality fat source in pet food.
Chicken Meal: Chicken meal is ground up chicken meat that has been carefully dried to a moisture level of 10%. The protein content is 65% and the fat level is 12%. Many pet owners feel that chicken is a superior ingredient to chicken meal. It would seem logical that feeding a pet a whole, non-rendered chicken would be good. However, whole chicken still contains its moisture content prior to cooking and since whole chicken consists of about 80% moisture, after the cooking process is over there isn’t much left. With chicken meal, the moisture was removed prior to cooking. That means, chicken meal actually has a much higher protein percentage and provides far more beneficial nutrients to your cats than whole chicken. Meals consist of meat and skin, with or without the bones, but exclusive of feathers/hair, heads, feet, horns, entrails etc. and have the proper calcium/phosphorus ratio required for a balanced diet. It’s also important to note the quality difference between “chicken by-product meal” and “chicken meal.” While we do take exception to chicken by-products, chicken meal is actually a very high quality and nutritious ingredient. We are happy to see this listed.
Pea Fiber: Peas are becoming more and more common in pet foods today, especially those listed as grain-free, holistic, or natural pet foods. While peas are certainly not grains, they serve much the same purpose. It mostly acts as a filler and a cheap way to increase the protein percentage of the food. However, cats receive almost no nutritional value from peas. Since cats are obligate carnivores, they require proteins from meat based ingredients. There is very little research that has been performed on the long term effects of cats consuming peas. We do know that peas can cause runny poop or digestion issues in dogs, but the full effect on cats remains a bit of an unknown. At best, this ingredient will act as a filler and will not provide much nutritional value, if any, to your cat.
Will my cat suffer from allergic reactions?
Looking at the ingredients used to make this formula, it is quite clear that none of them has been associated with allergic reactions in cats. Therefore, your cat will not suffer from allergic reactions after feeding on this formula.
Ingredients to avoid
Wheat, soy and corn: All three of these ingredients are known allergens for many cats. In addition, many cats have problems digesting these grain based ingredients. Since cats are obligate carnivores, their digestive systems are designed to digest meat and not grains. All of these ingredients will help to boost the protein percentage in cat food, but not all protein is created equally. Cats do not digest plant based proteins in the same way as meat proteins and in fact, gain little to no nutritional value from these grains. Several “grocery store brand” cat foods include these products to keep the price down as it is a cheap filler to help make your cat feel full as well as a cheap way to add protein to the food.
Artificial color and flavor: Both artificial and natural flavor ingredients are considered to be lower quality ingredients. Artificial flavor is usually derived from petroleum. Most have not been studied for safety or toxicity. They are all synthesized chemicals that don’t even have common names. Most artificial flavors actually contain many chemical ingredients, not just one. Many of those chemicals are volatile. Both natural and artificial flavors are chemical based ingredients and we don’t get all that excited when we see either one of those ingredients listed. Both of these ingredients have potential allergy risks and other possible health problems in cats. We also find it quite irresponsible to include artificial coloring in pet food since the health concerns about these added colors are so controversial. Your cat does not care what color their food is and the only reason artificial coloring is added to this product is for marketing purposes. It makes the food look better to you YOU, the human consumer. Of course, many cat food brands are very defensive about their use of food coloring. Here is an example of how the Purina brand defends their use of fool coloring. Notice how even in their explanation, there is no perceived benefit to these ingredients other than changing the color. There is also a growing amount of evidence to suggest food coloring may be linked to cancer in not just dogs and cats, but also humans. Here is an article that explains a bit further. In short, since there is some controversy surrounding this ingredient, we find it a bit strange that cat food companies would spend money adding this ingredient into a product when at best, it has zero nutritional value for your cat and only has marketing value. At worse, it could pose health risks. It just doesn’t seem like the risk of including this ingredient is worth it.
The Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Fish (dry) formula is definitely worth a sht. The ingredients used are highly nutritious and well balanced.