Natural Balance Organic Dog Food gets the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.
The Natural Balance Organic product line lists one dry dog food claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.
Natural Balance Organic Formula
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Organic chicken, organic brown rice, chicken meal, organic oats, organic millet, organic barley, organic grain sorghum, organic peas, organic potatoes, chicken fat (naturally stabilized with mixed tocopherols), organic canola oil, organic flaxseed, dicalcium phosphate, organic carrots, calcium carbonate, natural flavor, salt, potassium chloride, organic spinach, organic cranberries, organic tomato pomace, choline chloride, zinc proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, vitamin E supplement, vitamin B-12 supplement, taurine, manganese sulfate, niacin, riboflavin (vitamin B-2), copper proteinate, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin A acetate, inositol, folic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B-6), thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B-1), vitamin D-2 supplement, biotin, potassium iodate, cobalt sulfate, sodium selenite, Yucca schidigera extract, organic parsley, organic rosemary, dried kelp, ascorbic acid (source of vitamin C)
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||24%||14%||53%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||22%||31%||47%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is organic chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.
After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.
The second ingredient is organic brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The third ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The fourth item lists organic oats. Oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
The fifth ingredient is organic millet, a gluten-free grain harvested from certain seed grasses. Millet is hypoallergenic and naturally rich in B-vitamins and fiber as well as other essential minerals.
The sixth item is organic barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index, barley can help support more stable blood sugar levels.
The seventh ingredient is organic sorghum. Sorghum (milo) is a starchy cereal grain with a nutrient profile similar to corn.
Since it is gluten-free and boasts a smoother blood sugar behavior than other grains, sorghum may be considered an acceptable non-meat ingredient.
The eighth ingredient lists organic peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The ninth ingredient lists organic potatoes. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The tenth ingredient lists chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.
The next ingredient is canola oil. Many applaud canola for its favorable omega-3 content while a vocal minority condemn it as an unhealthy fat.
Much of the objection regarding canola oil appears to be related to the use of genetically modified rapeseed as its raw material source.
Current thinking (ours included) finds the negative stories about canola oil more the stuff of urban legend than actual science.1
In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.
From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.
But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to have much of an effect on the overall rating of this product.
With four notable exceptions…
First, flaxseed is one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.
However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
Next, tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.
Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.
Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.
In addition, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.
And finally, this food does contain chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.
Natural Balance Organic Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Organic appears to be an above-average dog food.
Since this recipe contains a number of quality organic ingredients, we feel compelled to accord this line somewhat favored status as we consider its final rating.
That’s because organic ingredients are produced under controlled government standards — standards which greatly restrict the use of any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, hormones or antibiotics.
But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.
Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs as compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the slight protein-boosting effect of the peas and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a below average amount of meat.
Even giving recognition to its organic ingredients, the lower meat content of this recipe prevents this product from qualifying for a higher rating.
Natural Balance Organic Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a below average amount of chicken as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
01/09/2010 Original review
08/16/2010 Review updated
05/26/2012 Review updated
12/11/2013 Review updated
12/11/2013 Last Update