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 Freeze-Dried Raw product line includes three recipes, 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 Lamb Formula
- Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Chicken Formula
- Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Beef Formula (5 stars)
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, apples, carrots, butternut squash, ground flaxseed, montmorillonite clay, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, ethylenediamine dihydriodide, sodium selenite), potassium chloride, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, choline chloride, 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), dried kelp, taurine, apple cider vinegar, parsley, honey, salmon oil, mixed tocopherols, olive oil, rosemary extract, blueberries, alfalfa sprouts, persimmons, inulin, rosemary, sage, clove
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 16%
Red items when present 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 is chicken with ground 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 is pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and, more importantly, linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fat.
The fifth ingredient is apple, a nutrient-rich fruit that’s also high in fiber.
The sixth ingredient is carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.
The seventh ingredient is squash. Squash is a nutritious addition high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and dietary 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.
The ninth ingredient is montmorillonite clay, 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).
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, 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, olive oil contains oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat. It’s also rich in natural antioxidants and carotenoids.
In addition, this recipe contains inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and typically sourced from chicory root.
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 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 37% and a mean fat level of 27%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 28% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 72%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And above-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 moderate amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw is a meat-based 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.
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
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Notes and Updates
11/05/2009 Original review
04/17/2012 Review updated
10/20/2013 Review updated
10/20/2013 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩