Purina Pet Food issued a press release this week stating Blue Buffalo admitted in court that a “substantial” and “material” portion of their pet food sold to consumers contained by-products. Purina stated Blue Buffalo owes consumers an apology.
It’s been about a year since this pet food battle began. Purina filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo in May of 2014. Purina claimed that testing revealed that Blue Buffalo pet foods contain poultry by-products even though Blue’s advertising proudly claimed their products had no by-product ingredient.
Blue Buffalo responded a couple of days later stating “Blue Buffalo does not use chicken by-product meal or poultry by-product meal in any of our products” and called the lawsuit “baseless”.
A few days after that (5/14/14) Blue Buffalo filed a countersuit against Purina “accusing the rival pet-food maker of defamation, unfair competition, false advertising and trade-practice violations.” Blue made the statement “Unlike Nestle, who has a history of favoring litigation over fair and open competition, this is not the way Blue Buffalo likes to do business. We’d much prefer an environment of transparency in which pet parents know the ingredients of every pet food, and decide for themselves which one they want to feed their dog or cat.”
Then in September of 2014, Purina produced their test results on Blue Buffalo Pet Food. Purina’s scientific expert – Dr. Makowski – provided detailed explanation of his testing procedures and findings. Dr. Makowski stated he found “small fragments of egg shell, raw feather and leg scale” – which would indicate by-products. Blue Buffalo hired an expert of their own – Dr. Dravid. Blue Buffalo’s expert seems to tear down every aspect of Purina’s report calling Purina’s science “rudimentary”, “inappropriate methodology” and found that Purina’s expert lab is actually located in a residence.
But then one month later – October 2014 – Blue Buffalo made the announcement that an ingredient supplier “mislabeled” some ingredients selling Blue Buffalo a chicken meal that was actually a by-product meal. Blue Buffalo president put the blame on the ingredient supplier Wilbur-Ellis and told the world this supplier also sold a mislabeled ingredient to other pet food companies as well. “So while their customers were ordering and paying for 100% chicken meal, at times they were receiving shipments that contained poultry by-product meal. Since this Wilbur-Ellis plant was the source of some of our chicken meal, me may have received some of these mislabeled shipments,…”
Notice the Blue Buffalo statement tended to minimize the situation using words like “at times” and “some”.
And then this week, Purina issues a press release stating: “Purina issued the following response to Blue Buffalo’s admission in court yesterday that a “substantial” and “material” portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold to consumers contained poultry by-product meal, despite pervasive advertising claims to the contrary. Blue Buffalo asked the Court for additional time to file an Amended Complaint in the litigation, naming its ingredient suppliers as Defendants.”
“Substantial” and “material” portion is much different than “at times” and “some“.
Purina’s press release continues with…
“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.”
Personally, I believe it is time for all pet food manufacturers ‘to be transparent with the public’. Just yesterday I chatted with a Purina representative about their new and highly publicized Bright Minds Dog Food. I asked exactly how much “medium chain triglyceride vegetable oil” is included in the dog food (ingredient Purina claims is responsible for improving the mental state and activity level of senior dogs). Purina refused to tell me – stating this was proprietary information. (More on this soon.) Many pet foods do the same when difficult questions are asked by consumers. All of pet food needs to be more transparent – not just Blue Buffalo.
Often, lawsuits are the only way to force the hand of a company – to disclose a truth that consumers need to be alerted to. But are pet food consumers going to benefit from any of this fight between Purina and Blue Buffalo? It is estimated that these two pet food have spent almost $2 million dollars in legal fees alone this past year for this one lawsuit…
3 lawyers each pet food at $300 an hour – an estimated 20 hours a week working on this case = $18,000.00 a week. 52 weeks = $936,000.00 each pet food. Totaling an estimated $1,872,000.00 spent in legal fees alone just for these two pet foods to argue with each other over the past year.
That’s a mighty expensive argument. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on high quality ingredients and full transparency efforts by both companies?
By the way – neither of these pet food companies have provided consumers with their Pledge to Quality and Origin (the simplest and no cost method of transparency available to pet food manufacturers).
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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