Do you own a cat that hates feeding on grain-based formulas? There are some cats that just don’t like foods that are grain-based. When shopping for feed for such cats, it is very important that you read from each ingredients list for all formulas you want to purchase. Nowadays, many cat formulas are grain-based making it somewhat challenging to find grain-free formulas. Even so, there are some formulas that are advertised as being grain-free.
One such formula is the Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Healthy Weight Chicken (dry) formula. According to the manufacturers, this formula s not only grain-free but also guarantees your cat 100% nutrition. This formula has also been advertised as being gluten free thus preventing allergies caused by gluten.
Does this formula live up to its promise?
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Potato Starch, Pea Fiber, Chicken Fat, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Powdered Cellulose, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Chicken Flavor, Alfalfa Meal, Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Taurine, 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, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Dried Yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.
A look at the first five ingredients
Deboned Chicken: Chicken is a very popular ingredient for pet food and in this case, they are referring to whole chicken with the bones removed. This is a very high quality meat source and we are pleased to see it listed. In dry cat foods, whole chicken loses about 80% of its content during the cooking process. This is because chicken consists of about 80% moisture. After the cooking process is complete, the amount of whole chicken remaining is substantially reduced. However, in wet cat foods the cooking process is a bit different so this is much less of a concern.
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.
Turkey Meal: Turkey is a fantastic source of very healthy animal based proteins. Since this is listed as turkey meal, that means almost all of the moisture was removed prior to the cooking process. This is actually a good thing as it will contain many times more protein than turkey that was cooked without the moisture being removed. As one of the best protein sources for cats, we are very pleased to see this ingredient listed here.
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.
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.
Other ingredients used
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.
Flaxseed: Flaxseeds (also called linseeds) are a rich source of micronutrients, dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1, and the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA or omega-3. The seeds come from flax, one of the the oldest fiber crops in the world. It is not only a source of healthy fat, antioxidants, and fiber; modern research has found evidence to suggest that flaxseed can also help lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. The health risk associated with this ingredient is low and in general, flaxseed is considered to be a beneficial ingredient for cats.
Chicken Fat: 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.
Powdered Cellulose: Powdered cellulose is a cheap filler ingredient. It is obtain as a pulp from fibrous plant material and highly refined. Once processed, it looks and feels very similar to sawdust. Cellulose is used in a wide number of ways. In addition to being added to pet food, it is used quite a bit in human foods, but can also be used for things like insulation, rope making, and textiles. Just like in humans, this ingredient is indigestible for cats. There is no hard evidence to suggest this ingredient is unhealthy, but it wouldn’t be considered a higher quality ingredient, either.
Will my cat suffer from allergic reactions after feeding it on this formula?
Judging from the ingredients used to make the Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Healthy Weight Chicken (dry) formula, you can clearly see that none of them are linked to allergies in cats. You cat is, therefore, safe from allergic reactions after feeding on this formula.
Ingredients to avoid
Gluten: This ingredient is associated with causing allergies in cats. It is also known to raise sugar levels in cats. Over time, this can lead to diabetes. Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat endosperm which is a type of tissue produced in seeds that’s ground to make flour. Many pet food manufactures will use this ingredient to help boost the protein percentage of the food.
Soy, wheat 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 Healthy Weight Chicken (dry) formula is generally a good formula. The ingredients used are nutritious and safe. Your cat is unlikely to develop any health complications after consuming this formula.