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Last updated: 31 Oct 2019

Nature’s Variety Dog Food Review

Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Dog Food

Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain Free Dog Food

Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Dog Food

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Dry Dog Food

Prairie Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Nature’s Variety Prairie Natural Dry Dog Food

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Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 12:02 pm

Pet parents who strongly believe in the importance of using only the highest possible quality raw ingredients in dog food can surely appreciate what Nature’s Variety canine diets stand for. The brand is well known for utilizing pure and real ingredients to give pets the right types of nutrients in the right amounts that their ancestors did. A number of Nature’s Variety dog food reviews speak highly of the brand, although there have been a few concerns about its new formulations. Only time will tell whether this change in formulation will adversely affect its appeal to pet parents or not. This review of Nature’s Variety dog food should help you decide whether to give the brand to your pet or not.

Nature’s Variety Dog Food Review

1

With 70% of its composition coming from real, cage-free chicken, turkey, salmon, chicken eggs, and menhaden fish, it is not surprising that this Nature’s Variety Instinct formulation sits well on preferences of pet parents especially those who require a high-protein, high calorie diet for their pets.

This Instinct dog food utilizes all the natural goodness of raw meats and combines them with the nutritious goodness of vegetables and fruits to help ensure your dog gets the right blend of nutrients for optimum development. It’s absolutely free from allergenic grains, too, perfect for hounds with sensitive tummies and is further aided by the addition of probiotics. If it’s Natural Instinct dog food that you’re after, the Original recipe sure fits the bill squarely.

Related Post: Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

Amount of Kcal: 499 per cup

Crude protein (minimum): 37%

Crude fat (minimum): 20%

Fiber and moisture content (maximum): 3% and 10%

First 5 ingredients in formulation: real chicken meat, real turkey and chicken meals, chickpeas, peas, and chicken fat

Minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamins, 60 million CFUs of the probiotic Bacillus coagulans

Specification:
  • Brand: Instinct
  • Model: 769949657255
  • Weight: 22.5 pounds

2

Give your pet the taste of the bounties of the nation’s greatest grasslands with the Prairie formulation of Nature’s Variety. This canine kibble comes with moderate levels of protein sourced from real chicken meat and complemented by menhaden fish and turkey to give your dog a different kind of meal worthy of its days on the prairie. The Prairie offers a well-balanced and complete nutrition for dogs in an easily-digestible form.

The chicken they use in the formula is guaranteed cage-free, giving pet parents the peace of mind that their pets won’t be eating any harmful ingredients from the Nature’s Variety dog food formula. There are probiotics as well, working synergistically with its grain-free recipe while also aiding in the enhancement of its immune functioning.

Amount of Kcal: 420 per cup

Crude protein (minimum): 25%

Crude fat (minimum): 14%

Fiber and moisture content (maximum): 6% and 10%

First 5 ingredients in formulation: real chicken meat and meal, brown rice, oatmeal, and barley

Vitamins, essential fatty acids, minerals, 5 strains of probiotics

Specification:
  • Brand: PRAIRIE
  • Model: 769949710820
  • Weight: 27 pounds

3

What makes the Raw Boost recipe from Nature’s Variety is that it combines the nutritious goodness of high protein kibbles with the full flavors of freeze-dried raw high quality ingredients. The Nature’s Variety Instinct raw dog food gives your pet the chance to try out real meats like chicken, turkey, salmon, and menhaden fish plus nutrient-dense whole eggs. It’s a meal that’s bursting with flavors and does exceptionally well in the nutrition department, too.

Related Post: High Protein Dog Food

The added fish into the recipe gives it good levels of EPA and DHA, although the omega fatty acid ratio can be further improved. Nevertheless, with the addition of Bacillus coagulans in the recipe, ensuring more optimal digestion and immune functioning, this recipe is perfect for hounds that are extra energetic.

Amount of Kcal: 492 per cup

Crude protein (minimum): 37%

Crude fat (minimum): 20.5%

Fiber and moisture content (maximum): 4% and 9%

First 5 ingredients in formulation: real chicken, real turkey and chicken meals, chickpeas, peas, and chicken fat

Essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, 60 million CFUs of the probiotic Bacillus coagulans

Specification:
  • Brand: Instinct
  • Model: 769949608967
  • Weight: 21 pounds

4

The idea about a limited ingredient diet is to provide as few ingredients as possible to dogs to help eliminate possible allergens while meeting their nutritional needs. This Nature’s Variety Instinct recipe features lamb, peas, tapioca, coconut oil, and Montmorillonite clay as its ‘limited’ ingredients. In case one is wondering what Montmorillonite clay is, it’s approved by the USDA for inclusion in USDA Organic-Certified products. It’s believed to help in the management of irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea, two of the symptoms dogs with upset stomachs usually present.

The use of peas instead of other ingredients is also noteworthy. Technically, there are only two ingredients in this LID formulation of Nature’s Variety Instinct: lamb and peas. You still get moderate amounts of protein and fats plus high enough calorie levels to support your pet’s daily exercise requirements.

Amount of Kcal: 447 per cup

Crude protein (minimum): 23.5%

Crude fat (minimum): 16.5%

Fiber and moisture content (maximum): 3.5% and 10%

First 5 ingredients in formulation: lamb meal, tapioca, peas, pea protein, and canola oil

Vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids

Specification:
  • Brand: Instinct
  • Model: 769949658450
  • Weight: 20 pounds

5

Only 5% of this Natural Instinct dog food canned recipe is composed of vegetables and fruits that include carrots, peas, cranberries, kale, parsley, artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, pumpkin, and tomatoes. This means the remaining 95% of its dry matter portion is actually composed of real chicken and turkey with the addition of egg.

Unlike other brands, this canned variety of Nature’s Variety dog food comes with the broth of chicken as the source of its moisture. This is very unlike other brands that use ‘sufficient amounts of water’ for the so-called processing. The grain free recipe also keeps the diet safe for your pet especially if it has gluten allergy. The rich flavors of chicken and turkey combined with the nutrient-dense goodness of chicken liver and eggs are enough to make this a favorite meal by itself or as a hefty topper for your pet’s kibbles.

Related Post: Dog Food Toppers

Amount of Kcal: 493 per 13.2 oz can

Crude protein (minimum): 10%

Crude fat (minimum): 6.5%

Fiber and moisture content (maximum): 3% and 78%

First 5 ingredients in formulation: chicken and turkey meats, chicken liver and broth, and ground flaxseed

Essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals

Specification:
  • Brand: Nature’s Variety
  • Model: 769949707103
  • Weight: 9.9 pounds

Nature’s Variety Dog Food Buying Guide

Company Information

Nature’s Variety started in Lincoln, Nebraska with the principal purpose of empowering people to help in transforming the lives of pets. The company strongly believes in the value of adhering to the principles of raw canine nutrition in that it somehow mimics the very same diet that the ancestors of man’s best friend ate during their time. The brand emphasizes all-natural ingredients utilized in a holistic manner to replicate the nutrient profile of nutrient-rich raw dog food.

Each recipe that the company makes is guaranteed to be free from soy, wheat, and corn as well as high glycemic foods like potatoes. It also does away with artificial preservatives, flavor enhancers, and color enhancers. Instead, the brand uses only natural ingredients that can serve such functions.

We’ve tried looking for information as to the date of establishment of the brand. Unfortunately, its official website doesn’t provide any information as to its date of establishment. The only information related to its inception is that it started in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Since 2009, the company has had 5 product recalls, twice in 2010 and once each in 2012, 2013, and 2015. The February 2010 product recall was related to possible salmonella contamination of the Chicken Formula of the brand’s Raw Frozen Diet. This was repeated a month after. In July 2012, the Prairie Beef Meal was recalled because of the observation that the recipe developed an unusual odor over a period of time. In February 2013, a batch of its Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula was voluntarily recalled because of the risk of choking attributed to pieces of plastic in the dog food bags. In July 2015, the brand recalled its Instinct Raw Chicken Formula for fears of salmonella contamination.

While the Nature’s Variety dog food products we have included in this review were never recalled, it simply puts a very big question mark in the quality control protocols of the company.

woman feeding her dog

Why Choose this Brand?

If you’re a pet parent who believes in the importance of raw food for your pet dog, then this brand is for you. The philosophy of the company is based on the use of raw nutrition to bring out the best in every single pet. This means you get the best possible ingredients sourced from reputable farmers and suppliers.

Proponents of a grain free diet for dogs will also love the brand as it makes sure that all of its variants don’t have soy, wheat, or corn or any other ingredient that can cause gluten allergies in dogs. While there are some pet parents and veterinarians who say that the issue of gluten allergy is more of a projection of the so-called experiences of humans regarding gluten allergies, it is still a valid concern especially if you’re one who strongly believes that your dog’s tummy is not built for such food items.

Pet parents who don’t like the idea of giving their pets harmful chemicals can rest assured that there’s none in any variant of Nature’s Variety. The brand doesn’t use artificial flavor enhancers, color additives, and preservatives. In instances where they need to provide more flavor or to prolong the shelf-life of their products, they make sure to use only all-natural ingredients to ensure the safety of their products.

If you want a well-balanced diet that provides the right amounts of nutrients for your pet, then the Nature’s Variety dog food brand is for you. It more than meets the standards set by AAFCO and NRC so you’ll know your dog gets the right and complete nutrition necessary for its well-being, optimum development, and quality of life.

Ingredient Analysis

Dogs require the right amounts of nutrients for them to really grow healthy and strong. Here’s how we analyzed the ingredients of this dog food brand.

  • Moderate to above-average proteins

The four dry variants of Nature’s Variety dog food that we’ve included in this review come in with an average crude protein content of 30.625%, recomputed to 34% when only the dry matter equivalent is considered. There’s remarkable variability in the protein content of the brand. It can be as low as 23.5% or as high as 37%. The canned version naturally has higher protein content on a dry matter basis, 45.45%.

The overall protein content of Nature’s Variety places it as average or above-average since there are some brands that can go as high as 40% for the dry matter weight on dog kibbles and up to 55% on wet or canned versions. Still, compared to some very popular brands the protein composition of Nature’s Variety Instinct dog food is a lot better.

However, there are some points that had to be made. We noticed that some of the formulations actually incorporate pea protein in the top 5 ingredient list. This is in addition to the proteins already found in natural peas. As such, one may think that the high protein content of these dog food products do not necessarily come from animal sources alone.

We are not against plant proteins. Sadly, there are some essential amino acids that are missing in such protein sources. These amino acids are vital for a variety of functions. To obtain a complete range of essential amino acids only animal proteins can be given. It is for this reason that the current feeding recommendation for dogs is to provide food whose first ingredient is an animal protein. Of course, there will be instances when a plant-based ingredient will be called for as the top ingredient. However, these are usually prescription diets and should never replace a meal where a named animal protein is the top ingredient.

  • Moderate fats

Like the protein content of the 4 products we’ve reviewed here, their fat composition is also very variable. It can be as low as 14% or as high as 20.5% with the highest at 29.54% for the computed dry matter weight of the canned version. On the average, the dry version comes with 17.75% or about 19.7% when only the dry matter is considered. It is well within the fat composition of many dog food products today.

The brand also includes essential fatty acids in its formulation. Sadly, a review of the ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s, it was nowhere near the ideal. In most cases, the essential fatty acid ratio closely mimics that seen in modern humans. This has significant implications since a disproportionately larger omega-6 concentration can have more negative effects on the health of the dog.

  • Below-average to average carbs

Computing for the dry matter equivalents for proteins and fats puts the carbohydrate content of Nature’s Variety to be 36.3% for its dry versions and 25% for its canned version. This is definitely remarkable since most dog food brands come with 50 to 60 percent carbs. The recipe also doesn’t use high glycemic foods like potatoes and has clearly done away with allergenic grains.

dog eating food

  • Micronutrients

Nature’s Variety dog food meets the nutrient requirements that have been stipulated by both NRC and AAFCO. Our only lament is that there are no joint-friendly substances in the 5 products that we’ve reviewed. The inclusion of probiotics is a nice touch, nevertheless.

Pros
  • Moderate to above-average levels of proteins
  • Utilizes high-quality all-natural animal proteins in recipes
  • Observes the ‘animal protein first’ principle of dog food formulation
  • Doesn’t include high glycemic foods like potatoes and allergenic grains like soy, corn, and wheat
  • Includes wholesome lentils, fruits, and vegetables
  • Meets the required nutrients as specified by AAFCO and the NRC
  • Utilizes high pressure procession for ensuring optimum dog food safety
  • Doesn’t contain artificial ingredients like artificial preservatives, colorings, and flavorings
  • Includes probiotic microorganisms in most formulations
Cons
  • Includes plant proteins in the formulation to boost protein levels
  • No information on the inclusion of other beneficial substances like chondroitin and glucosamine
  • History of product recalls
  • Unusually higher calorie content
  • Pricier than other brands that come with almost the same ingredient composition
  • Grain-free, but still includes chicken as main ingredient in many recipes

Nature’s Variety dog food products offer pet parents an excellent choice for optimum canine nutrition; that is if you don’t mind the price tag. It’s considered as one of the best and safest dog food brands one can give to his or her pet. Unfortunately, recent product offerings have been met with resistance underscoring a reduction in the quality of its formulations as well as a history of several product recalls. It still is a good dog food to give to your pet, nevertheless, especially if you manage to pick the right variant.

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Dr Tracy Douglas
Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
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