Natural Balance Organic (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★½☆

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

Protein = 24% | Fat = 14% | Carbs = 53%

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
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis22%13%NA
Dry Matter Basis24%14%53%
Calorie Weighted Basis22%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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 24%, a fat level of 14% and an estimated carbohydrate content of 53%.

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.

Bottom line?

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.

Recommended.

A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

To learn how we support the cost of operating this website, please visit our public Disclosure and Disclaimer page.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

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

  1. Mikkelson, B and DP, Oil of Ole, Urban Legends Reference Pages (2005)
  • rob d

    my Alaskan malamute had uncontrollable itching for a very long time and was getting hot spots and was depressed and lethargic … I brought him to the vet multiple times to throw away money on cortisone shots and pills that didn’t work, blood work that told us nothing at all, and I finally switched him OFF of the Taste of the Wild to Natural Balance Organic Formula and this solved all of his skin problems and got him excited about life again… Funny this food got less of a star rating than TOTW….. Natural Balance Organic Formula has actual non gmo organic ingredients….. maybe it was just my dogs allergies but a bit skeptical about TOTW. he could have been allergic to a pesticide or fungicide used in TOTW that obviously isn’t listed in their ingredients… a lot of dog foods like to front “organic” that actually aren’t really at all… there’s such a low standard in human food out there today, so I really like seeing ORGANIC before every word in my dog food’s ingredients list…… Newmans Organics and Organix have barely any actual organic ingredients… they basically are greenwashing their labels and its not fooling me or anyone that cares to look at the back of the package.

  • Storm’s Mom

    While organic ingredients may have environmental benefits, etc for us humans, I’m not sure “organic chicken”, “organic brown rice”, or “organic potatoes” are any different to a dog than “chicken” or “brown rice”, etc in terms of the nutritional value a dog derives from these ingredients. Dr Mike addresses this in the section called “The Bottom Line”. As such, the ingredient profile and nutritional analysis numbers are that of a 3.5 star food. Those are the only factors that Dr Mike/The Dog Food Advisor takes into account in the reviews. Hope this helps!

  • peg

    I did not know about the tomato pomice or canola oil controversies, and I really appreciate your explanations of WHY the dog food gets its rating. You are very thorough.

    I was surprised to find this only getting 3.5 stars. I feed this and Sojo’s about half and half and my dogs do great on this combo. One of my main reasons to buy it is the organic ingredients – for its environmental benefits and b’c chemicals in non-organically raised meat is enough of a danger IMO to offset other drawbacks. I had also been using TOTW, and when I stopped that their coats got even glossier and softer.

  • Shawna

    No, I’m not a vet. But thanks for thinking I might be one :). My father is a Naturopathic Doctor and I learned a lot from him as well as books and seminars etc.
    Vainilla is definitely very lucky! That meat grinder will come in very handy :).. Let us know how it goes!!

  • Lisset Orozco

    Thank you for your advice… The book is on the way and i gonna do it. Also I ordered my samples from Darwins to try. I know it is gonna be hard but i like to do it, and you know what? My husband have a “meat grinder” at his restaurant… Vainilla is sooo lucky. ….. Are you a Vet? You are showing knowledge…

  • Shawna

    I think you will enjoy Dr. Becker’s book :).. For someone new to home made diets it can be a bit much to take it.. But give it some time if it is.. I promise it will get easier :)..
    Vainilla, I like that!! Too cute!!!
    Darwins is mail order only. You won’t be able to find it in stores. The positive to this —- it is VERY fresh. I really like the protein to fat to carb ratio of the food as well as the organic, free range option. I also really like the packaging. They have an introductory offer that is a great value. You can decide from there if you like it or not. :)
    Wishing you and your whole family a happy and healthy life!!!

  • Lisset Orozco

    Thanks Shawna , I all ready bought Dr. Becker´s book =), it is coming by UPS jaja. But know I just gonna go to the pets store and buy this raw Darwin´s or Bravo food. I am so gratefull I love my dog and i want the best for VAINILLA it means Vanilla

  • Shawna

    Hi Lisset,

    Thanks for the kind words :)..

    I currently don’t formulate my dogs’ diets. I used to but don’t have as much time at this point in my life. Right now I use commercial products like Darwin’s which has a line that is organic and grass finished. I also use Bravo meats (which are also raised organically) with premixes like The Honest Kitchen’s Preference.

    When formulating a recipe it is not a good idea to stick with just one recipe. Chicken is a good source of the fatty acid linoleic acid as an example but is deficient in saturated fats (which dogs also need).

    If you want to feed grains, nuts and seeds research how to sprout or long soak them to deactivate the ickys in them — like the phytates that bind with minerals and can, over time, cause a mineral deficiency. They also have enzyme inhibitors which makes it harder to digest the foods eaten.

    Hound Dog Mom has formulated some diets that I really like. Plus, she has had them evaluated for completeness. They can be found on the forum here on DFA. I also like Dr. Becker’s book “Dr Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats”. The recipes in this book are also evaluated for completeness and includes recipes for a cooked diet if you would prefer that over raw. A heads up — it can be a bit overwhelming when beginning home preparing but it does get easier as you go. You get into a routine :)….

  • Lisset Orozco

    Hello Shawna.. i was reading all the comments and you have a lot good information. I am really organic an NON GMO and i want the same for my dog… So, we eat at home organic meat, chicken, wild fish and raw organic veggies and fruits. Also a lot of grains and seeds like a amaranth, quinoa, beans, lentils, brown rice, chia, hemp seeds, pumking seeds, non gmo corn… And I want the same “safe food” for my dog, but I don`t know how mix all this nutriens. Can you share with me your personal recipe? thanks… And raw means uncooked meat?

  • Shawna

    Hi Becky and thank you :),

    I have a dog that was born with kidney disease and will be seven years old the end of this coming June. What I learned in researching for her disease — the “quality” or “bioavailability” of the protein makes all the difference..

    Vegetable proteins have a lower bioavailablity (how well the body uses the amino acids in the protein on a cellular level). Non-animal sources of protein can be mixed to make a “complete” protein but unless it is done VERY CAREFULLY, the bioavailability of the protein can still be low — even though it is a “complete” protein having all necessary amino acids accounted for. You, or your dog, may be eating large quantities of protein but if it isn’t very bioavailable the body could still be getting inappropriate amounts.

    When you factor in cooking and processing, the bioavailabity goes down even more. I just today read a research paper stating that sythetically derived single amino acids (like those added back in to some highly processed foods) are not utilized as efficiently by the body as those found naturally in foods.

    It definitley is unclear as to how much protein our pups really do need for optimal healthy…. But one thing that is known, and cited in the teaching books like Waltham, is that they have no (zero) nutritional need for complex carbohydrates like grains.

    I don’t have access to Waltham but Dr. Jeannie Thomason, Veterinary Naturopath quotes Dr. Russell Swift DVM on her website (who quotes Waltham :) “There is no known minimum dietary carbohydrate requirement for either the dog
    or cat. Based on investigations in the dog and with other species it is likely
    that dogs and cats can be maintained without carbohydrates if the diet supplies
    enough fat or protein from which the metabolic requirement for glucose is
    derived.” – The Waltham Book of Dog & Cat Nutrition (1988), edited by Dr. A.
    T. B. Edney” http://www.thewholedog.org/id34.html

  • Becky Mikalinis

    Interesting, I switched from Castor & Pollux Organix to this. My puppy went crazy over the taste. I said, almost like it has MSG in it. I’ve emailed the company to see if the ‘spices’ have MSG as one of them. Thanks for all the advice.
    One disagreement I have is that people don’t need as much animal protien as we once thought, perhaps pets don’t either and they may get enough with a high vegetable mix. Read Forks over Knives. Thanks for all the great information.
    Also interesting, the chicken meal is not listed as organic, and it’s the most protein. I’ve also asked the company if they source from China.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    Hi Deb,

    The 650+ dog food reviews on my website have been written over a period of years. Newer reviews describe potatoes in this way:

    “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.”

    As I update each review, the older descriptions are being modified to reflect this more accurate description.

    Hope this helps.

  • Deb

    I’m confused about review comments on potatoes.  For the Natural Balance Ultra the review said this about potatoes:
     
    The sixth item lists potato. Assuming they’re whole, potatoes are a good source of digestible carbohydrates and other healthy nutrients.
     
    On the Natural Balance Organic review it states this about potatoes:
    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.
     
    So does that mean potatos are a good carb…or only modest nutritional value to a dog?
     
    I have a mini schnauzer puppy that I tried her on several high protein foods and she could not handle it.  Had very mushy poops!  She really likes the Natural Balance Organic and has good firm poops, finally!!
    But, now I’m not sure….is this a good food for my puppy?
    This is a great site for information…but can be confusing for a newbie!!

    Thanks 

  • Toxed2loss

    Yeah!! Mutuality!!!!!!!! :-D

  • Shawna

    Toxed ~~ I JUST NOW saw this post you left 2 months ago!!  You rock my world girl!!!  Love you!!! :)

  • Shawna

    JW360 ~~ The vet tech only told you the side they wanted you to know.. :(  It really frustrates me that they only tell one side of the story..  Or possibly, they only know one side?

    They didn’t mention that brown rice (and other grains) have enzyme inhibitors (specifically the protein digesting enzyme trypsin) that make it harder to digest and therefore utilize the protein in the food.

    Didn’t tell you that rice and barley have an antinutrient called phytate.  Phytate binds with minerals like zinc and calcium and prevent their absorption.  Eating a diet high in rice can cause a zinc deficiency as an example..

    Grains are added as a filler…  Thiamine is damaged by heat so any in barley probably didn’t survive the cooking process.  Hence why they add synthetic Thiamine “thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B-1)”.  They also have to add back in several other B vitamins (riboflavin, biotin, b12 etc) as well as other nutrients.  Even if they didn’t have to add them back in, there are other foods that don’t cause the damage that grains do that supply these same nutrients.

    Didn’t tell you that grains like rice and barley have a protein called a lectin that can be very very damaging to the digestive tract.  And, in certain cases, can cause autoimmune diseases like arthritis, lupus, MS, IBS, Celiac, Crohns and more.

    I’m not trying to tell you what to feed – truly!!!.  But, I really do want people to know that there are risks when feeding foods with grains included.

  • JW360

    Shawna – thank you for the information.  We tried going raw but Raven had non-stop diarrhea so while it works for some dogs, it’s just not right for us.  I called Natural Balance and talked to them, and we discussed some of the ingredients you mentioned.  The vet tech on the phone was really well-informed and answered all of my questions.  The nutrition in this food is hard to beat- they explained to me how the brown rice has the bran portion intact for carbohydrates and vitamin B, and the organic barley provides fiber, antioxidants, B3 and thiamine, among other important minerals.  The chicken is certified organic and GMO & pesticide free.  I really like all the other healthy ingredients too like carrots, spinach, cranberries, etc.   But for me the proof is in my healthy, beautiful, happy dogs!  We’re thrilled with this dog food and will keep buying it.

  • Toxed2loss

    JW360,
    I completely agree with Shawna. What she knows about nutrition completely blows me away!!

    Mike S, this comment of Shawna’s deserves it’s own thread! :-)

    Love you girl!

  • Shawna

    JW360 ~~ I’m an organic fan too..  Unfortunately, just being organic doesn’t make a food healthful :(  Most of the stuff at Trader Joes or Whole Foods I wouldn’t eat — the processed stuff that is. 

    Examples of what I mean specific to this food
    1.  “Natural Flavor” is very likely a source of MSG (well the g (glutamic acid) in MSG).  MSG is an excitotoxin that can cause brain damage, agression, multiple sclerosis, dementia plus many more.
    2.  “Organic Barley” even though this is organic it can still have the same negetive effects as non-organic barley.  Barley, like wheat, being a gluten grain.
    3.  The Omega 6 fatty acids in grains are very inflammatory.  And there are A LOT of grains in this food.
    4.  They add canola (which has some more omega 6) and flax back in but these two products provide plant based ALA omega 3 fatty acids.  ALA is not converted well to EPA and not at all (in adult dogs) to DHA.  DHA is needed for brain, eye and heart health.
    5.  The food is still cooked (even though organic) which kills all the health promoting enzymes and probiotics.  None are added back in.
    6. Because the ingredients are so damaged by the heat in production they have to add a significant amount of synthetic nutrients — which are in no way natural. Ascorbic acid is not truly vitamin C as an example. It it the protector of the actual vitamin. And, there are 8 forms of vitamin e. The four tocotrienols are never added back in.
    7.  To keep the cost of the food reasonable they don’t add a species appropriate amount of protein in the food.  And the 24% that is in the food is augmented by the protein in the grains lowering the actual better utilized animal protein even more.

    I’m a raw feeder and feed organic and mostly free range proteins to my pups.  I have one that was born with kidney disease so it is pretty important that she get the highest quality foods.  Anyway, the amount of protein in a commercial raw diet varies between 40ish to 50% of the diet.  More then most kibbles and significantly more then this kibble.  I say this because protein is the MOST important nutrient in the diet.  The cells that make up the body, the digestive enzymes that digest the food and kill cancer cells, glutathione which is the “master antioxidant of the body” etc are all made from the amino acids in protein…  If protein is too low in the diet there will eventually be consequences.

    One way to help is to add organic whole food proteins to the kibble.  Organic, free range eggs are an excellent option :)…  This won’t resolve the other problems with the food but it will at least help get the protein up :)…

    Sorry I butted in..  Just thought you might be interested…

  • Anonymous

    I am a strong believer in buying organic for myself and for my pets.  When Natural Balance came out with their Organic Formula dry food – I started buying it and my dogs love it and are doing great on it.  They are energetic and have beautiful coats, and I am happy in knowing that their food is GMO & pesticide-free.  This is a truly great dog food and I would whole-heartedly recommend going organic with Natural Balance.

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