Choice is a wonderful thing, but it can become confusing.
When seeking a healthy nutritious food for your dog, there is an overwhelming amount of choice.
Let’s say you’ve narrowed things down and decided you want a high quality, meat rich diet that’s made in the US.
Indeed, let’s say you’ve drilled right down and it’s now a straight tussle between two brands with excellent reputations: Taste of the Wild vs Blue Wilderness.
Quick look: Taste of the Wild vs Blue Wilderness
Can you slide a piece of paper between them, or are they both as good as each other?
We’re here to help and investigated the two brands so you don’t have to.
We concluded they are both excellent diets with above average nutrition for a formulated food.
However, it’s our job to be super picky, and based on extreme fussiness when looking at the specifications, ingredients, and price point; we decided one did indeed have a small advantage over the other.
Which will it be..?
To appreciate just how small the difference between the brands is, and how they are both great chows for your hungry hound, let’s find out more about each brand.
You can’t help but notice the packaging: Evocative scenes a rugged bear catching salmon in a raging stream, or looping wolves tracking a herd of buffalo.
The message is clear: This is as close as you can get in a bag, to what your dog’s ancestors ate in the wild.
It is indeed a romantic image and a lovely notion, but how much of it is hype?
Taste of the Wild’s mission strapline is:
“A premier, grain-free pet formula based on their ancestral diet.”
Alrighty, sound great…except… ‘premier’ means nothing, nadda.
It’s a self-awarded title much overused by pet food manufacturers.
Fine, it implies a good quality food, but the key word is ‘implies’.
The term is not recognized by AAFCO and there’s nothing to stop someone selling bags of sawdust with “Premier source of fiber” on the bag.
Another bug bear is the touting of ancestral diet as a big benefit to the dog.
This is irritating for a number of reasons.
Firstly, dogs diverged from their wolf ancestry thousands of years ago and as a result their digestive tracts have changed too.
But even if they hadn’t, it should be remembered that our pets far outlive wild dogs, and this is in part to the knowledge and care that goes into making modern diets.
Don’t forget, a traditional ancestral diet would also have been chock full of parasites, so what Taste of the Wild actually mean is “A sanitized version of their ancestral diet.”
Sorry, rant over, but if you’re going to use emotional language as your strapline, at least make sure it’s a reflection of the truth.
Actually, thinking about it, Taste of the Wild is missing a trick, because potentially they could say:“…based upon their ancestral diet but without the gross bits.”
Think it will catch on?
OK, enough nit-picking, let’s look at the food itself to see if there is a difference between Taste of the Wild vs Blue Wilderness dog food.
Taste of Wild gets big ticks in the box for manufacturing quality control.
They are in close contact with the suppliers of the raw ingredients, to ensure ongoing quality.
The food itself is manufactured in the US under tight control, including on-site product testing and microbial testing.
On a practical level they make both dry and wet foods.
These come in a range of life stage diets: Puppy, adult, and senior.
It is important to give your dog the food appropriate for their life stage.
One-size fits all must meet the needs of all dogs (not lead to deficiency disease) so, for example, it means an older is given too much protein as the food is balanced for puppies (which have a higher protein requirement than adult or older dogs).
Studying the ingredients, Taste of the Wild gets top marks.
The varieties sound delicious with meats such as venison, salmon, and bison on offer.
And they don’t disappoint in terms of quality, with a named meat topping the list of ingredients.
We analyzed the nutritional value (working backwards on a dry matter basis) we had a small surprise.
Yes, Taste of the Wild is a high protein food, but actually, a significant contribution does come from (high quality) plant protein.
So don’t be deceived, yes this is a good diet, but your dog is deriving more good quality protein from peas, garbanzo beans, and flaxseed.
That said, Taste of the Wild uses top quality meat and is richer in meat protein than the majority of other brands.
So, crunch time (See what we did there!) Would we feed Taste of the Wild to our dog?
Blue Wilderness is another dog food that has its roots in how the ancestors of our dogs would have eaten.
Thus, many of the points already raised (for Taste of the Wild) about the differences between our pet dogs and wild animals, also stand as true for Blue Wilderness.
What we especially liked about Blue Wilderness is the range of food types.
You can choose between dry kibble and canned, along with rolls and even treats available within the range.
They also have a comprehensive range of life-stage diets, which makes choosing the correct nutrition for your dog based on their age much easier.
Blue Wilderness advertises their food as “The sensible alternative to a raw diet.”
Indeed, on their website they have a handy comparison tool, which enables you to check out how Blue Wilderness measures up against many best-selling brands.
The main benefits Blue Wilderness compare with other diets are:
Indeed, these are good yardsticks to use when comparing any food you’re thinking of feeding to your dog!
Simply read the label and see how the food stacks up!
However, a couple of things puzzled us at this point.
The above list sets store by Blue Wilderness foods not containing “chicken by-products”.
However, when we looked at the label for Blue Wilderness Salmon, it clearly states “No chicken / poultry by-product meals”.
And yet, what is the second ingredient on the label? “Chicken meal!”
This is confusing to the point of worrying.
The difference appears to be the words ‘by-product’, which would appear on first inspection to require an explanation on the part of Blue Wilderness to clear up the difference.
Otherwise there is a risk that the wording on their packaging seems contradictory!
An analysis of the food on a dry matter basis (this is with the moisture removed, so it shows what the actual nutrition once digested is to the dog) shows the protein content to be higher than the average dog food.
It’s also low in carbohydrates, and has a below average fat content.
Of course, fat is bad for the waistline but good for making things tasty.
However, palatability shouldn’t be a problem because of the range of scrummy ingredients.
Again, much like Taste of the Wild, Blue Wilderness is also grain-free.
Which is perhaps something we should look at more closely, as it’s relevant to both brands?
Grain-free foods are increasingly popular.
The idea behind feeding them goes something like this: The dogs’ wild ancestors ate a mainly meat diet and didn’t go around harvesting grains and eating them.
Therefore the canine digestive tract is not adapted to eating a high percentage of grain.
Whilst there’s an element of truth in this, it should also be remembered that those wild ancestors didn’t just dine on steak.
They chewed on bones, swallowed down skin, and gobbled up gut contents.
When a pack of wolves brought down a bison, they dined on the whole of the carcass, including the stomach contents which was entirely plant based.
OK, another argument for feeding grain free foods is that grain is a common food allergen.
Actually, whilst gluten-allergy does happen, it remains rare in dogs (and over diagnosed!)
There is as much chance of a dog developing an allergy to beef, lamb, or chicken, as there is to gluten.
So whilst choosing a gluten-free diet is essential if your dog has gluten-allergy, it’s not necessary for the majority of regular dogs.
So, crunch time. Would we feed Blue Wilderness to our dog?
But in the introduction we promised to tell you which food, Taste of the Wild vs Blue Wilderness was best.
So…what’s the answer?
These are two similar high quality foods, based on the same ethic, which is that dogs should eat a diet similar to their ancestors.
Both offer life stages diets and have superior protein content to many other bestselling diets.
Both are manufactured in the US under tight hygiene standards and with close supervision of the originating food sources.
So how do they differ?
Let’s look at price point.
Heck, you guessed it, they’re pretty similar.
However, look at the bag size.
On closer examination we noticed you get 6lb more food for the same price, when you purchase Taste of the Wild.
This might be a small point but it’s significant when trying to decide between two similar products.
Let’s look at what pet parents have to say about these foods.
Let’s look at the bad stuff first.
The main concern about Blue Wilderness is that is seems to give a small number of dogs bad stomach upsets.
Of course this could be due to a dietary allergy, and isn’t a problem with the food itself, so it’s difficult to know how much weight to give this.
For Taste of the Wild, it’s a similar picture, but with the odd bag of kibble turning up with unexpected visitors inside.
In fairness, this occasional upsetting finding isn’t limited to this brand and seems to be a rare but regular occurrence with most pet foods.
Moving onto the positive, fans of both foods absolutely love it!
Those that adore this diet re evangelical about how good it is, and wouldn’t consider feeding their dogs anything different.
As well as the regular reasons for loving a food, such as a glossy coat and firm feces, some owners had special reasons to be appreciative.
One owner feeding Taste of the Wild to his Labrador was over the moon when his dog stopped having seizures whilst on this food.
This owner had tried other diets (including Blue Wilderness) but the symptoms didn’t resolve.
Working on the theory that something in the diet was triggering the seizures, he kept experimenting – until he hit upon the answer – Taste of the Wild.
Both Taste of the Wild and Blue Wilderness have success stories where dogs with long term skin conditions went on to clear up.
This is a reflection of the purity of the diets and also that they have a limited range of ingredients.
This makes it easier to avoid an ingredient which triggers skin allergies.
In summary, both Taste of the Wild and Blue Wilderness are great foods.
They make grand claims but for the large part, they are right to do so.
Comparing both foods, maybe, just maybe, you can slide a dollar bill between them with Taste of the Wild just nosing in front based on value for money.
Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats. Sarah has published numerous articles on canine feeding in pet related magazines, veterinary journals and leading natural health web sites.