Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie (Dry)

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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2 stars.

The Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula product line includes one dry dog food, a recipe claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient guidelines for adult maintenance.

Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 20% | Fat = 9% | Carbs = 63%

Ingredients: Brown rice, chicken, chicken meal, potato fiber, rice bran, tomato pomace, beet pulp, pearled barley, salmon meal, chicken fat (preserved with natural mixed tocopherols), lamb meal, oatmeal, natural flavor, carrots, potatoes, duck, brewers dried yeast, salt, potassium chloride, salmon oil, whole ground flaxseed, choline chloride, taurine, natural mixed tocopherols, spinach, parsley flakes, cranberries, l-lysine, l-carnitine, Yucca schidigera extract, dried kelp, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 8.9%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis18%8%NA
Dry Matter Basis20%9%63%
Calorie Weighted Basis19%21%60%
Protein = 19% | Fat = 21% | Carbs = 60%

The first ingredient in this dog food is 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 second ingredient is 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 third ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The fourth ingredient is potato fiber, a source of dietary fiber. Fiber in reasonable amounts can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce a dog food’s caloric content.

The fifth ingredient is rice bran, a healthy by-product of milling whole grain rice. The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain containing starch, protein, fat as well as vitamins and minerals.

The sixth ingredient is tomato pomace. 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.

The seventh ingredient is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

The eighth ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The ninth ingredient is salmon meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1

The next ingredient is 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.

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 affect the overall rating of this product.

With five notable exceptions

First, brewers yeast can be a controversial item. Although it’s a by-product of the beer making process, this ingredient is rich in minerals and other healthy nutrients.

Fans believe yeast repels fleas and supports the immune system.

Critics argue yeast ingredients can be linked to allergies. This may be true, but (like all allergies) only if your particular dog is allergic to the yeast itself.

In addition, a vocal minority insists yeast can increase the risk of developing the life-threatening condition known as bloat. However, this is a claim we’ve not been able to scientifically verify.

In any case, unless your dog is specifically allergic to it, yeast can still be considered a nutritious additive.

What’s more noteworthy here is that brewers yeast contains about 48% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

Next, salmon oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.

Depending on its level of freshness and purity, salmon oil should be considered a commendable addition.

In addition, 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, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

And lastly, this food also contains 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 Original Ultra
Reduced Calorie Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula looks like an above-average dry product.

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 20%, a fat level of 9% and estimated carbohydrates of about 63%.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 44%.

Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the brewers yeast and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a limited amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula is a plant-based dry dog food using a limited amount of chicken meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2 stars.

Not recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

Natural Balance Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

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Notes and Updates

07/08/2016 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials