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 product line includes eight raw dog foods, 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 Organic Chicken
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Duck (4.5 stars)

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 when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis15%8%NA
Dry Matter Basis44%24%24%
Calorie Weighted Basis35%45%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 is 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 27%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 20% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-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 specific 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.

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

06/06/2014 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • SP
  • Hound Dog Mom

    Definitely.

  • sharron

    can sojos dehydrated complete feed be mixed with NV medallions

  • Cyndi

    I agree! This website and the people here have helped me tremendously!!

  • Oscar228

    Awww, thanks again!!! This is such a great community!!!:D

  • Cyndi

    You’re very welcome! We are all here to help each other. :)

  • Oscar228

    Thank you very much for all your advice!!!:D

  • Amanda

    My 4-year-old Pekingese, Jax has been on this food for a couple of months now. I work at a pet store and have been through various pet food training classes, so I’d like to say that I know a thing or two about quality foods. Once I started to realize the benefits that raw food can have, I definitely switched. Jax loves it! However, did anyone else have to go through the switching process really slow? Jax eats 1 cup of food a day, so I started out with 2/3 cup of his beef flavored Fromm and 1/3 cup of the Nature’s Variety raw food. Within the first two days, he started to have diarrhea. I’ve read that raw food can take a little longer to get used to, and have now been switching him much more slowly. Has anyone else experienced diarrhea with their dogs?

  • Cyndi

    Here’s the coupon in case anyone wants to use it. Hopefully you can just print it out…

  • Cyndi

    Dr. Mike, thought I’d share this with you & others. I get emails from Nature’s Variety with coupons for their raw food. The pic below is a screen shot of part of the last email I got from them.

  • Julianne Sobel

    Yup. My dog is refusing to eat the new stuff. Tried both the beef and chicken. Will try old fashioned NV turkey/duck without raw. If that doesn’t work I will need to find another brand.

  • Rick Culbertson

    Just put my female dobe back on raw from Orejin kibble. Great food but she was putting on weight

  • Rick Culbertson

    Yes your right I should of specified fresh veggies. Just something to fill them up.

  • theBCnut

    If you are talking about canned green beans or carrots, I don’t like to recommend carrots because they are full of sugar that, once cooked for canning, is available to the dog, and added sugar calories isn’t helpful. Raw carrots and green beans are less digestable and therefore do a better job of providing bulk without many calories.

  • sharron

    thanks – will give it a try

  • Rick Culbertson

    Mix some no salted carrots of green beans in with the raw
    Should help fill her up

  • sharron

    well i’ve finally got lexee eating this food (just started) – giving her 3 medallions a day and i’m finding that it’s not filling her up – is this normal when just starting to feed raw – the last time she ate this food which was about 3 yrs ago i fed her too many and she gained quite a bit

  • Akex

    Hello Hound Dog Mom.
    I just made the jump to raw with ziwipeak air dried but want to use something more balanced with produce. Which do you prefer NV, primal or Stella an chewy? Also what are you thoughts on Ziwipeak?

  • Dori

    NO! The rabbit used to be sourced from China. It has been at least a year that they have been sourcing rabbit from France. Do some research before posting negative posts please. Thx

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Tracey –

    NV imports their rabbit from France. They no longer source from China.

  • Tracey Atkinson-Bagatta

    Great food – but avoid the rabbit variety – the rabbit is imported from China.

  • Cyndi

    Raw is the best you can feed, then dehydrated raw, then canned then kibble. Whatever you think is best for your dog, is what you should feed. I started my girl on raw a little over a year and a half ago. I did just about 2 months of research before I started though. If you are interested in raw, there are a few good books out there to help you. “Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet” by Steve Brown is one. The other is “Healthy foods for Dogs and Cats” by Dr. Karen Becker is another. Also, there are a lot of people on here that are willing to help. If you check out the Forum section, there is a Raw Feeding section that is very informative. Good Luck! :)

  • Oscar228

    Hello!!! I have a 6 year old Dachshund named Oscar. Currently I have him on Taste of the Wild. I would really like to have him on the healthiest diet possible. Would raw food be the way to go??? I really don’t know

  • Carla

    Here is the reply I received from the company:

    “Hi Carla,

    Thank you for writing and sorry for your experience with our food. Feedback like this is very important to us.

    All of our Instinct Raw diets have recently been updated. You can read about the new formulas at http://bit.ly/1sT23nr. The increased organs in the formula add a more vibrant, darker color.

    The information you have provided from the product in question will help us better report this issue to our Quality Assurance Department for further research.

    We have a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee that covers all of our foods if you are not satisfied with your Nature’s Variety purchase for ANY reason. Were you able to exchange or return this product for a full refund at the store? If not, we can send you a free product coupon to try another bag. Just respond to this message with your physical mailing address and we’ll send that coupon out to you right away. Again, sorry for your experience.”

  • Carla

    Thanks for the info – my dogs will not eat this. They have refused it for four days now. Not sure what to do!! I have contacted the store and attempted to contact the company – waiting on a reply.

  • theBCnut

    For a healthy dog, the fat percentage should be 1/2 of the protein percentage.
    A raw meaty bone is NOT a marrow bone. It is a softer consumable bone such as ribs of smaller animals, turkey necks, chicken backs, etc. RMBs are usually not balance though, too much bone, so you usually have to give more meat with RMBs if they are a regular part of the diet.
    Sent from my iPod

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Ideally, you want to look for double the amount of protein than fat. But those are few and far between. But active dogs require more energy so can very well handle more fat. If you take a look at some sporting or professional or working dog kibbles, you will find that some have high fat, some have equal amounts of fat as it does protein. You can slowly transition your dogs to a high fat diet. I started by giving my dogs a couple bites a day as a treat. Then I started giving them chicken wings and thighs and drumsticks with fat on. BTW, those are RMB, something they can completely consume. I didn’t give them a marrow bone (recreational bone) right off the bat since those are just fat. Some dogs can handle a fast transition or even go raw cold turkey. But I like to be cautious. My group is accustomed to various amounts of fat as they get a rotational diet. They do get marrow bones too and some of their foods are probably around 100% or more fat-to-protein. But it’s rotational.

  • Dori

    Hi Nancy. Wait a little while (end of the month) before you order the Zeal from THK. They are removing the Alfalfa for various reasons and though it’s already in production, they are waiting until everyone sells out of their alfalfa inclusive products. I spoke with them again yesterday and they told me to call them again at the end of the month. Apparently there was a lot of product out there with the alfalfa.

    Again, Darwin’s is a great food but so are a lot of the 5 star raws. Remember, don’t obsess too much. Pick one transition your dog then pick another one. Rotate between the proteins in the brand you pick and also with different brands. Don’t feel that whichever food you pick is the one you’ll be feeding for life. The idea is to find as many as agree with your dog (over time) and rotate between foods. Eventually you’ll get to where you can rotate different foods whenever you feel like it even from meal to meal. I believe you are over thinking the whole raw feeding. I believe that HPP raw foods are great also because the simple fact is that the objective is to rotate foods so that your dog will be getting benefits from all different types of ingredients from different companies. It’s easy. Just jump right in and join us raw feeders. When you’ve been doing it for a while and see the difference in your dog you are gonna smack yourself on the head and wonder what the heck to you so long.

  • Dori

    Thanks for the info Jeremy.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Nancy –

    I was referring to “Steve’s Real Food” brand of raw. The review is here: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/steves-real-food-raw-frozen/

  • Nancy Calloway

    HDM – Better to be a Fool and ask a Q than not ask and remain one.
    WHO is “STEVE?”
    I went to the Raw Food List and saw nothing named “Steve’s” —
    I’ve missed something. Thank you for cluing me in.
    Nancy

  • Jeremy

    I learned some of it from the representative from the company that visits the pet store I work at, as for the feeding guidelines I looked at the bags we have in stock in our freezer. When our rep comes in again I will try to get some more in depth answers if I can :)

  • Dori

    Thanks for letting us know about the change in NV. Did you get this info from the company or the pet store that you purchased it from?

  • Jeremy

    Oops, this was supposed to be in response to Carla’s post

  • Jeremy

    Natures Variety did just change their product and packaging, I’m not sure on what all they changed with the recipe but I know it’s not suitable for cats anymore just dogs. Oh yeah and you have to literally feed twice as much as you used to, I checked between the old package and the new ones since we still have some old ones and it doesn’t seem like the changes to guaranteed analysis would account for this.

  • Nancy Calloway

    Okay, Shawna — I am reading this thread at NV’s raw… So how about telling me WHAT commercial foods you DO TRUST NOW?
    BTW I just REvisited Brothers Complete. it is probl a trustworthy food. But it is pricey. I am a Raw Believer now. It’s just that I need to find a trustworthy source. Darwin’s I think IS one. What do you think? Even the Homeopath Vet I have mentioned earlier recommends it FIRST on his website. I aspire to GMO Free and would like to be feeding Organic for those high prices. Thank you in advance for whatever you can say. I am leaning toward THK Zeal also. Just as FYI I have called ZiwiPeak three times now and left a message and NOBODY ever calls me back. Bad sign.

  • Nancy Calloway

    Hi Shawna: Thank you for your yet again watchful eye. I am studying Raw now. I do not want the HPP foods either. so, based on your knowledge, and to save me TIME, can you rec a few NON- HPP Raw producers? Sounds like the Pickens will be slim. Thank you!

  • Nancy Calloway

    Glad to see someone on here who specializes in GSDs! My GSD had a terrible problem at 16 mos when I transitioned him to Origen and Acana. Terrible diarrhea. Ended up at vet, metronidazole, Hill’s WD. Now he is doing well on Dr. Tim’s Persuit because he is in training until Sept. But when he returns home I plan to move to Raw yet know I MUST do my homework. He will have been on Dr. Tim’s since June and doing well – stabilized from the terrible spring he had. He will be 2 in September and otherwise very healthy. What advice do you have for me in transitioning to Raw, other than going extremely slowly — I am thinking starting him out with 1/8 cup a day of raw (raw patties first) mixed with Dr. Tims, and increasing only when any soft stool stops. does this make sense? What ELSE might you say? Thank you.

  • Nancy Calloway

    OKay – just read this. so WHAT IS THE RIGHT percentage of Protein to Fat for Raw? I am seeing variations and wondering about that. Don’t want pancreatitis!!
    I asked Betsy earlier about exactly WHAT IS A “raw meaty bone?” Where do I buy that or do I order? I know this is a stupid Question but I need to be sure that I understand this. I think the Whole foods butcher was wrong when he told me it is a leg bone with marrow. I did not correct him because I am just beginning to learn about raw. Thank you!!

  • Nancy Calloway

    Hi Betsy: I just saw this as am studying the 5 * Raw Products reviews. I don’t fully understand “raw meaty bone–” exactly what it is and where to get them. For dental health they seem to be necessary (?) unless you are feeding your dog things like whole chicken wings and whole chickens with the bones which they have to chew up — or a “rack” of lamb with bones or similar (which I could not afford!). I went to the butcher at Whole Foods and he showed me a LEG bone with marrow inside, calling it a “raw meaty bone” however I think he was incorrect. I have read on DFA (I think) that a weight bearing bone like a leg is NOT recommended bec it can crack a tooth.
    Thank you for whatever you can say.
    Nancy C.

  • Dori

    Did you call the company and let them know what your experience is? Also did you talk to the pet store where you purchased the food? It would be good that they be advised of the issue and see if they have any answers for you. Let us know please as a lot of us use Natures Variety Instinct Raw. I don’t feed the chicken because one of my girls has allergies to all things poultry but I do feed some of their other proteins.

  • Carla

    Did they recently change the recipe for the Raw chicken medallions? My dogs suddenly will not touch it! They have been eating it for more than a year, and the latest 3 lb bag I purchased doesn’t even look or smell the same. It looks dark, like the beef formula. And it’s no longer a paste consistency when thawed; now it’s more crumbly, like cooked ground beef. Bad, bad deal, NV!!

  • acozyreaderscorner

    Amazon, chewy’s.com and Petco or PetSmart all carry NV Raw.

  • PUNKem733

    Funny you should ask. You’re on a thing called the internet. It’s actually the greatest place in human history for gathering information such as this. It’s CRAZY!!!!

  • Guest

    What’s so great about the raw foods? I keep hearing about it.

  • Pug Poppa

    Hi and you are a Pug Angel. We have 3 pugs, one had multiple mast cell tumors and numerous surgeries, the second, one MCT removed, chronieec ear infections, IBS, liver issues when we adopted him, and our oldest an elongated palate and athrophy of blood vessels behind his eyes causing genetic blindness. They are all doing well on raw diet with fish oil and added vitamin. We do use Darwin’s, which I admit is costly but we save on not having chronic wet bills.

  • Steve

    I’m replying to a 3-mo. old post, but the question is still valid and unanswered.
    I too am disappointed the mfg’r doesn’t include info on their label or website about ME and Calories for this food. The NI Raw Chicken website says my dog needs 1250 cals. per day. and to feed him 19.5 oz. By weight that equals 2.4 patties per day, and means about 512 cals/patty.

    Can we calculate ME by using the Dry Matter numbers DFA publishes and the Atwater Factor formula found in the peteducation.com article “Metabolizable Energy and Caloric Density” http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=1+2244&aid=2842 to calc ME. If yes, I get ME 4420 kcal/kg. Would love some other input and guidance on this.

  • theBCnut

    Especially for your one with mast cell tumors, I think this would be a good one for you to try. Google high histamine foods and you’ll find a list of foods you want to avoid for her. That will help you make decisions in the future.

  • Chrissy

    Hello! I am wondering if this food would be alright as an introduction to raw for our pugs…we have one pug fully on raw. We were now thinking of trying all raw or at least one meal – it is pricey and we have 4 who all have special needs. We adopted them and they are all doing fantastic, but still have a lot going on right now. One little one just had 4 mast cells removed and a ton of upper airway surgery….then we just found out she also has laryngeal collapse and we adopted her knowing she had the most severe orthopedic conditions. She is one strong little girl! She is just the happiest little girl despite all she went through in those awful conditions before she was rescued and then now…we would like to try the raw thing one more time. Prior to this none have done really well on raw, but we may have tried to switch them over too fast. We were going to try a very slow transition. I am not sure if this is a good one to begin with, or if this is a not so good one. I see mixed reviews. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated! I thank you so much for any help! We also have thought about Addiction dog food as well. <3 Chrissy G.

  • Jo Ann Marlowe

    try a feed store

  • theBCnut

    The tubes can be partially defrosted and portioned then refrozen. But my favorite place to order raw from is Darwin’s. it’s shipped right to your door frozen solid and has everything you need except for feeding fish once a week.
    Sent from my iPod

  • Teresa

    Thank you! I would like to order Raw but it is only offered in Tubes at our Pet store. I am not sure how to get started with buying Raw and from where?