When clients ask me what food they should feed their pet, I tend to mention the same few companies, who have proved through time and science that their products are wholesome and balanced. There is one company I never recommend to clients, Blue Buffalo, and my reasons really have nothing to do with the food itself. My main complaint, in addition to a few other things that have come to light about Blue, is the way the company markets it's products. Ever since Blue commercials began airing, I have had many discussions with clients about by-products and the true definition of the term, and so-called "bad companies."Apparently Purina has had enough of it, as well.
I find it wholly unethical to a) Vilify other companies in your own industry in your marketing materials and b) Imply that certain pet food ingredients like by-products and corn are evil, cheap fillers that harm your pet. (See this post). That is why I was ecstatic to read that Purina has filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising. You can read about it directly from Purina at their website, http://www.petfoodhonesty.com/. In further research, it appears that Hill's has also come up against Blue for their advertising claims.
Purina states that they used an independent laboratory to find that Blue foods do contain by-products and by-product meals, despite their claims. This is unsurprising, as the term by-product only means material not used as human food, and encompasses quite a few things that commonly find their way into pet food. As I have said in previous posts, by-products are not bad. It is only the term that has a bad connotation. Highly nutritious organ meats like liver and spleen are included, as is bonemeal which is a great source of calcium. Feathers, hair, hooves and teeth are not included.
Marketing for pet food is obviously directed towards the owner, as s/he is the one with the wallet. This is true of ALL pet product companies. The shiny bag with the pretty picture on it, the logo, the fun colors and different size fonts all appeal to the owner. If we were going to let the dog decide, a plain bag that the scent could travel through would be plenty. It is difficult to remember this when confronted with an aisle full of gorgeous labels. I understand why companies make their bags so pretty, I really do. The same goes for the advertisements. TV is a great way to get your message out there. But it is possible to promote your own product without putting down the products of others, which I really believe hurts the entire industry in the end.
Blue has responded with a letter that tries to appeal to it's customers emotions, just like their advertising. You can find it on the Dogington Post website, linked above. They continue to vilify their competition, accusing multibillion dollar company Purina of attacking a "family run company" and using emotional descriptive terms like outrageous, voodoo science, pet parents, and frivolous. Meanwhile, according to this article, Blue made over 600 million dollars in profits in 2013 and may be sold this year.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit as well as the many other things that could be changed in the pet food industry as a result. A great article on evaluating pet food companies can be found here.