Merrick and Blue Buffalo are two of the leading US brands on the pet food market. They both claim to provide the highest quality pet food and boast about their natural, wholesome, and healthy formulas.
But do these claims have any merit? To find out we put Merrick and Blue Buffalo against each other.
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Merrick is a cat and dog food company founded in 1988 in Texas by Garth Merrick after he “began home-cooking food for his beloved dog, Gracie,” according to the brand’s website. The company gives a “five-star promise” to its customers that it uses “real whole foods” sourced from “trustworthy farmers and partners [for] health you can see.”
While all this sounds great, in 2015 Merrick was acquired by Nestle’s Purina which angered pet owners. At the time the company issued a press release promising that the acquisition won’t affect the quality of its products.
About Blue Buffalo
Blue Buffalo is another well-established on the US market manufacturer of dog and cat food. As is the case with most pet food companies, this one, too, has originated with a dog—the founders’ cancer-suffering Airedale terrier Blue. Blue’s health problems led the company’s founder Bill Bishop and his two sons to “create a pet food that was made with only the highest quality natural ingredients.”
Blue Buffalo was found in 2002 and remained family-owned until last year when it was acquired by food manufacturer giant General Mills.
Now let’s see how it compares against Merrick.
Below we’ll go over four formulas alltogether—two wet and two dries.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Dried Egg Product, Potato Protein, Natural Flavor, Tapioca, Ground Flaxseed, Phosphoric Acid, Inulin (from chicory root), Dried Whey Protein Concentrate, Salmon Oil, Choline Chloride, Salt, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal, Taurine, Minerals((Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamins(Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Ffaecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Peas, Pea Protein, Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pea Fiber, Powdered Cellulose, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Choline Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, DL-Methionine, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Calcium Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, Salt, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Taurine, Calcium Carbonate, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), 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, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Peas, Dried Egg Product, Potato Protein, Natural Flavor, Dried Potato, Cranberries, Ground Flaxseed, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Dried Broccoli, Dried Cheese, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Whey Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Salmon Oil, Minerals (Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Glucoheptonate, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate), Taurine, Choline Chloride, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Thyme, Sage, Rosemary.
Duck, Duck Broth, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Carrots, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pumpkin, Cranberries, Blueberries, Cellulose, Guar Gum, Taurine, Cassia Gum, Carrageenan, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9).
The dry diets both list deboned chicken followed by chicken meal as the first two ingredients.
Merrick does contain turkey meal as its third ingredient while Blue Buffalo’s formula lists tapioca starch. However, without knowing the weight of the ingredients, position alone isn’t indicative of which formula is richer in animal-sourced protein.
Speaking of tapioca, it is present in both products—this is an ingredient that doesn’t provide much nutritional value to cats. Manufacturers use it as a substitute for grain in grain-free formulas.
The presence of “natural flavors” is also a warning sign about the palatability of these products. While better than the artificial alternatives, vets advise that the presence of additive flavors in pet food suggests that the formula is not attractive to cats on its own.
As of the wet options—they don’t differ much in content either, though Merrick’s formula again comes on top, listing animal-derived products as four of the first five ingredients versus Blue’s two. However, the presence of “guar gum” in both formulas precludes us from recommending either of them.
The verdict: none of the formulas is something to get enthusiastic about.
Now, let’s see how the four diets stack up against each other in terms of nutritional analysis.
To compare the formulas we need to calculate their carb content and convert them to a Dry Matter Basis. We took the data from the manufacturer’s websites. Where ash ratio is not indicated by the manufacturer, we are assuming an industry average of 8% for dry food and 2.5% for wet options.
This gives us the following results:
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Real Chicken + Sweet Potato Recipe
- Protein: 47%
- Fat: 21%
- Carbs (est.): 28%
BLUE Freedom Grain-Free Indoor Chicken Recipe for Adult Cats
- Protein: 35%
- Fat: 15%
- Carbs (est.): 33%
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Morsels Chicken Divan
- Protein: 47%
- Fat: 21%
- Carbs (est.): 15%
Blue Buffalo Meaty Morsels Chicken Entrée
- Protein: 34%
- Fat: 27%
- Carbs (est.): 20%
The verdict: Merrick’s formulas come with higher protein and lower carb count, therefore are better aligned with a cats’ natural diet.
Now let’s move on to the part about recalls of Merrick and Blue Buffalo if such were ever issued.
- Merrick’s cat food has never been recalled.
- Blue Buffalo’s cat food has been recalled twice: in 2007 Blue Buffalo cat food formulas were recalled due to containing melamine—a substance known to cause kidney failure among pets. In 2015 pouches of Blue Kitty Yums Chicken Recipe Cat Treats were recalled due to the possible presence of propylene glycol—a substance that the FDA has banned for use in cat food.
Class Action Lawsuit Against Merrick
In 2016 Californian Sean Randall filed a lawsuit for $5 mln. against Merrick, its owner Purina and others for falsely making customers believe that their products are entirely made in the USA.
The suit was connected with the abovementioned presence of melamine—an ingredient that was found in vitamin premixes which in fact originated from China and India.
When the melamine scandal exploded in 2007, 150 pet food brands recalled their melamine-containing formulas after tests and pet owners revealed that the contaminated products caused kidney disease and death.
The case ended with a settlement.
Purina v Blue Buffalo
In 2014 Purina filed a lawsuit against Buffalo for falsely claiming that its formulas don’t use chicken/poultry by-product meals. According to Purina, “independent laboratory” test found that some of Blue Buffalo’s formulas do contain poultry by-product meals.
At the time Blue vehemently denied the accusations, questioned the validity of Purina’s testings, and in turn filled a counter-suit for defamation against Nestle’s brand.
A month later Blue Buffalo released a statement admitting that some of its formulas contained by-product meals and blamed suppliers for “mislabeling” by-product meal as meat meal. In the end, the two companies settled while in a separate case the suppliers in question pleaded guilty to misbranding and adulteration charges
So, what’s the verdict on Merrick vs. Blue Buffalo?
If we had to choose between the two, we’d go for Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Real Chicken + Sweet Potato Recipe.
It is limited-ingredient, grain free, and comes with better nutritional analysis than the BLUE Freedom Grain-Free Indoor Chicken Recipe for Adult Cats.
- Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Cat Food Review
- Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Cat Food Review [2019 Edition]
- Ingredients to Watch Out For in Cat Food
- How to Find the Best Cat Food