Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diets (Raw Frozen)

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Rating: ★★★★★

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw frozen diets receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw product line includes eight frozen recipes, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.

Depending on the recipe, some are available as bites, medallions, patties and chubs.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Beef
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Lamb
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Rabbit
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Turkey
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Venison
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Chicken
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Duck (4.5 stars)
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Chicken and Tuna

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Beef Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Nature's Variety Instinct Raw Beef Formula

Raw Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 44% | Fat = 24% | Carbs = 24%

Ingredients: Beef, beef liver, beef kidney, ground beef bone, carrots, butternut squash, apples, ground flaxseed, montmorillonite clay, dried kelp, broccoli, cod liver oil, salt, salmon oil, apple cider vinegar, dried chicory root, blueberries

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5.9%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis15%8%NA
Dry Matter Basis44%24%24%
Calorie Weighted Basis35%45%19%
Protein = 35% | Fat = 45% | Carbs = 19%

The first ingredient in this dog food is beef. Beef is defined as “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered cattle” and includes skeletal muscle or the muscle tissues of the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus.1

Beef is naturally rich in all ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.

The second ingredient is beef liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

The third ingredient is beef kidney, an organ meat low in fat and rich in protein and essential minerals.

The fourth ingredient is ground beef bone, an excellent source of natural calcium.

The fifth ingredient includes carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The sixth ingredient is butternut squash. Squash is a nutritious addition high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

The seventh ingredient is apple, a nutrient-rich fruit that’s also high in fiber.

The eighth ingredient is flaxseed, 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.

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, montmorillonite clay is a naturally occurring compound rich in many trace minerals. Montmorillonite has been approved for use in USDA Organic Certified products.

Reported benefits include the binding of certain mold-based toxins and even controlling diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Next, cod liver oil is a fish oil known to be rich in both EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamins A and D.

In addition, 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.

Next, chicory root is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.

Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.

And lastly, although we find no added vitamins or minerals on the ingredients list, the company assures consumers its Instinct raw product line is “complete and balanced”.

Nature’s Variety Instinct
Raw Frozen Diets
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw frozen diets looks like an above-average dog food.

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 44%, a fat level of 24% and estimated carbohydrates of about 24%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 45% and a mean fat level of 26%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 21% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 58%.

Above-average protein. Below-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical raw dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a raw product containing an abundance of meat.

Bottom line?

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diets is a meat-based dog food using a significant amount of named meats and organs as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.

Enthusiastically 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.

Nature’s Variety 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.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

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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.

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

Notes and Updates

12/05/2015 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • InkedMarie

    Five stars except for the one noted that is 4.5

  • Jennifer

    The varieties without a rating, are they 5 stars or have they not been rated at all?

  • Gabbie Grapes

    Thank you!
    I think it’s so hard to find a “perfect” diet! There so much info and conflicting ways to do things. It sounds like you’re pretty close though!

  • Jennifer Ackley

    Hi Gabbie
    It all depends on your dog. I feed her 3x a day but small portions so she doesn’t gain weight. I’m still trying to figure out the best nutrition for her. Natures variety is not the perfect food but it’s better than what she was on. I give her about 1/2 cup a day because she’s only 10 lbs. I rotate fruits, veggies and fats to try and make it a balanced diet. I’m always searching for better though. I wish I had the perfect diet for her. Good luck with your pooch
    Jennifer

  • Crazy4cats

    Does she think it’s ok to mix canned food in kibble? Like I said earlier, if you are not comfortable, by all means do not mix them. You would feel terrible for not listening to your vet if it caused your dog harm. My dogs have done fine with it for a couple of years now. I also use canned, sardines, eggs, and tripe as meal mixers.

    Are you feeding raw currently?

  • Kathryn Eden

    Just checked again with the vet who said this. She said it’s not ideal to mix.

  • Kathryn Eden

    Just checked again with the vet who told me this. Now she says she gives both.

  • Kathryn Eden

    If raw has supplemental vitamins it’s good. Otherwise give canned too.

  • Kathryn Eden

    If there is bone in the raw yes poops are smaller and smell less. Normal

  • Kathryn Eden

    You can get good probiotics at Whole Foods.

  • Gabbie Grapes

    I have a beagle boston mix who recently started shedding uncontrollably, has always itched, and just started getting ear issues again. I’m looking to switch her food and saw you mentioned frozen and dry kibble. What kinds?
    Also could you explain alternating the fats? She gets fish oil right now and occasionally coconut oil. I do rub coconut oil on her but don’t fed it often.
    Would you also be able to tell me what kind of fruits/veggies and where you get the kelp and probiotic from?
    Thank you and sorry for the many questions! 🙂