Nature’s Variety Instinct freeze-dried raw dog food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Nature’s Variety Instinct product line lists three freeze-dried raw dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Beef Formula
- Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Lamb Formula
- Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Chicken Formula
Nature’s Variety Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Formula
Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken (including ground chicken bone), turkey liver, turkey heart, pumpkinseeds, carrots, butternut squash, apples, ground flaxseed, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, ethylenediamine dihydriodide, sodium selenite), montmorillonite clay, dried kelp, potassium chloride, broccoli, vitamins (vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), choline chloride, taurine, mixed tocopherols, apple cider vinegar, salmon oil, rosemary extract, blueberries, dried chicory root
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 16%
Red items indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||34%||26%||33%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||27%||48%||25%|
The first ingredient in this dog food includes chicken and ground chicken bone. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1
Chicken is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life. The ground bone is an excellent source of natural calcium.
The second ingredient is turkey liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The third ingredient is turkey heart. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing to us humans, heart tissue is pure muscle — all meat. It’s naturally rich in quality protein, minerals and complex B vitamins, too.
The fourth ingredient includes pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and, more importantly, linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fat.
The fifth ingredient includes carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.
The sixth ingredient is 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 four 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, 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, 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, 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 Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct freeze-dried raw dog food looks like an above-average 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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 34% and a mean fat level of 26%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 32% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 77%.
Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical raw dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a raw product containing a moderate amount of meat.
However, with 48% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 27% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.
Nature’s Variety Instinct is a meat-based freeze-dried raw dog food using a moderate amount of named meats and organs as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
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
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.
- 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)
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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A Final Word
The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.
The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.
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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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Notes and Updates
12/03/2015 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩