Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw frozen dog food earns the Advisor’s second-highest rating of 4.5 stars.
The Instinct Raw product line includes the 5 frozen dog foods listed below.
Depending on the recipe, some are available as bites, medallions, and patties.
Each recipe includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.
Use the links to compare prices and package sizes at an online retailer.
- Instinct Raw Lamb [A]
- Instinct Raw Chicken [A]
- Instinct Raw Beef (5 stars) [A]
- Instinct Raw Small Breed Beef (5 stars) [A]
- Instinct Raw Small Breed Chicken [A]
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
Ingredients: Beef, beef liver, beef kidney, beef spleen, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, montmorillonite clay, tricalcium phosphate, ground flaxseed, salmon oil, salt, potassium chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement), choline chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), blueberries, spinach
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.7%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||43%||27%||22%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||33%||50%||17%|
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 item is beef kidney, an organ meat low in fat and rich in protein and essential minerals.
The next ingredient is beef spleen, an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a positive addition to this recipe.
The fifth ingredient includes apples, a nutrient-rich fruit that’s also high in fiber.
The sixth ingredient lists carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.
The seventh ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.
The eighth ingredient is squash. Squash is a nutritious addition high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
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 4 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, 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.
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.
And lastly, this food 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.
Nature’s Variety Instinct
Raw Frozen Dog Food Review
Based on its ingredient panel, Instinct Raw Dog Food looks like an above-average product.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 41% and a mean fat level of 27%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 23% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 66%.
Which means this Instinct product line contains…
Near-average protein. Near-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 a notable of meat.
Instinct Raw is a grain-free frozen dog food using a notable amount of named meats and organs as its dominant source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 stars.
Please note certain Instinct 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
The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this Nature’s Variety product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Dog Food Recall of July 2015 (7/24/2015)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall February 2013 (2/15/2013)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall July 2012 (7/12/2012)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall March 2010 (3/9/2010)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall February 2010 (2/14/2010)
A Final Word
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Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
Notes and Updates
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩
12/14/2019 Last Update