Even with smaller portions he leaves a lot behind. Next meal time he wants food from the bag.
Should I suspect the quality of a portion of the food in the bag? Is dry food controlled to be completely uniform?
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From what I know about manufacturing (but not specifically, cat food manufacturing), I would be surprised if a food that appeared uniform had enough quality variation to be noticeable by taste.
More specifically, dry foods are usually extruded. My thesis work was on brick manufacturing (also an extruded product). These lines are generally run continuously (without a break). If the raw materials changed (and the change wasn't detected in quality control), you would see a gradual change in the individual pieces, not a sudden drastic change.
Now, if you're feeding a food that had different shapes (maybe some gumdrop shapes and some cross shapes), those different shapes would be made on different equipment, so they could conceivably taste different.
I suspect the effect you're seeing is whatever is causing the behavior in this question ( Why do cats act like their bowl is empty when there is still food left? ), but there's not any conclusive evidence for the reasoning behind that behavior, only guesses.
If it bothers you, you could switch to wet food, which has fewer health risks anyway, and cats rarely exhibit this behavior with wet food.
I don't think so. Our cat leaves a lot of dry-food pellets (about 25%). At first, we thought that he was just being messy and dropping pellets outside his feeding bowl, but we realised that he was simply discarding the ones that he didn't like. Since he seems to like his current dry food, we just let him get on with it, and bin the discarded pellets.
Note that we give our cat a varied diet. This includes home-cooked food and wet cat food. The dry food is just for browsing if he wants a snack. He is rather pampered, and that may be why he is picky about his dry food. All right, he is picky about all his food. He used to be a stray, and when we took him in he would eat anything (and everything).
He is also pretty good at spitting unwanted tablets (i.e. all tablets) out of the side of his mouth, but that's another story. It's a cat's life!