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


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
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.

Special Alert

Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.

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.


06/06/2014 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • 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 article “Metabolizable Energy and Caloric Density” 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?