As it often happens, a competition between companies has benefited the consumer. Purina was bent on catching Blue Buffalo in an advertising lie – they claimed they never used poultry by-product meal in their foods.
However, Purina did some testing of Blue Buffalo product and found that was not the case and sued them for False Advertising. Just last week, a year after the case was filed, Blue Buffalo admitted to using by product meal in “a ‘substantial’ and ‘material’ portion of their pet food.” (www.petfoodhonesty.com)
Blue Buffalo asked the Court for additional time to file an Amended Complaint in the litigation, naming its ingredient suppliers as Defendants.
“Despite this admission, Blue Buffalo still has not informed consumers of the presence of poultry by-product meal in Blue Buffalo pet food, refuses to accept responsibility for the product it sold, and is instead blaming its suppliers,” said Keith Schopp, a spokesperson for Nestlé Purina Petcare.
On May 6, 2014, Purina filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising after testing revealed the presence of poultry by-product meal in some of Blue Buffalo’s top selling pet foods. Blue Buffalo’s CEO responded by immediately claiming the testing was “Voodoo Science” and assuring their customers that “Blue Buffalo does not use chicken by-product meal or poultry by-product meal in any of our products.”
According to Schopp, “Only when faced with undeniable evidence from the lawsuit has Blue Buffalo admitted the truth to the court: a ‘substantial’ and ‘material’ portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold over the past several years contained poultry by-product meal. It is unclear to us if or when this practice stopped, or whether any Blue Buffalo pet food containing by-product meal is still on store shelves.”
No small company, it is estimated that Blue Buffalo sells over a billion dollars of pet food at retail and well over 10 million bags annually.
“Through a $50 million annual advertising campaign that flooded airwaves and pet food aisles alike, Blue Buffalo told consumers over and over, emphatically and without qualification, that its products never contain poultry by-product meal,” said Schopp.
Blue Buffalo also attacked “big name pet food companies,” insinuating that they were somehow misleading consumers. Consumers paid a hefty premium for Blue Buffalo products based on these claims.
“Yet none of these claims were true,” said Schopp.
Schopp added: “Blue Buffalo now claims it had no way of knowing the bags contained by-product meal. A manufacturer is responsible for knowing what’s in its product, and a simple audit of its supply chain would have revealed what we discovered after reviewing the documentation.
“Blue Buffalo owes consumers an apology for all the false statements, false labels, and false advertising. More than this, it is time for Blue Buffalo to be transparent with the public and prove to their ‘pet parents’ that no mislabeled product remains on shelves.”
Why You Should Care
Even if you don’t feed your dog Blue Buffalo, this should bring to light something very serious: how do you know if your dog food is what the label says it is?
Blue Buffalo has been around a long time and has always professed they were “by-product” free, as do many high-priced, “premium” pet foods.
“Regulatory oversight of pet food is very limited – no one tests or checks ingredients,” explains Susan Thixton, Pet Food Consumer Advocate and founder of TruthAboutPetFood.com. “Regulatory people tell me they don’t have the time or the funding to test products or ingredients. As with this instance, the only way consumers found out about the problem is from a pet food competitor testing products.”
And if, no one is checking….
“I would assume this goes on all the time,” she adds. “When any company knows the chances of them ‘getting caught’ are one in a million, the temptation to cut corners might be irresistible. Needless to say, we need improved oversight of this industry.”
So you are paying for high-dollar chicken but what exactly are you getting instead?
According to Thixton:
- The legal definition of a poultry by-product meal is: consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers.
- The legal definition of poultry meal is: the dry rendered product from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts of whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails.
And while she adds there is no scientific evidence (to her knowledge) that by-product is bad for your dog, it’s certainly not the organic, all natural, free range, etc., that some of these pet food companies tells you are paying top dollar for.
So How Do You Know You are Getting Your Money’s Worth?
Thixton says you need to ASK. Here are the important ones:
- What is the country of origin of all ingredients?
- Are meat and vegetable ingredients sourced from USDA inspected and approved human edible ingredients?
She warns that “many companies will provide only partial answers – such as they will respond that meats and vegetables are sourced from the US but will not disclose the country of origin of supplements (often sourced from China). A consumer wants complete answers – my suggestion is to keep asking questions.”
It’s a good reason to go homemade, of course. But, if you can’t do that, check out Thixtons’s list of safe pet foods that have been tested and ranked by her independent, consumer funded organization.