Nature’s Variety Instinct canned dog food earns the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.
The Nature’s Variety Instinct product line includes six canned 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:
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Beef Formula
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Duck Formula
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Lamb Formula
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Rabbit Formula
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Chicken Formula
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Venison Formula
Nature’s Variety’s Instinct Duck Formula canned dog food was selected to represent the others in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Instinct Duck Formula
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Duck, turkey liver, water, ground flaxseeds, tricalcium phosphate, montmorillonite clay, peas, potassium chloride, carrots, lecithin, vitamins (choline chloride, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, riboflavin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), dried kelp, salt, taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 12%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||40%||30%||22%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||30%||54%||16%|
The first ingredient in this dog food lists duck. Duck is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of duck”.1
Duck is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The second item is turkey liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The third ingredient is water, which adds nothing but moisture to this food. Water is a routine finding in most canned dog foods.
The fourth 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.
The fifth ingredient is tricalcium phosphate, a beneficial source of calcium and phosphorous. In addition, this additive is used in canned foods as an emulsifier — an agent designed to disperse a food’s fats more evenly in water.
The sixth 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).
The seventh ingredient mentions peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% 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 two notable exceptions…
First, this dog food also contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to amino acids. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are generally found in better dog foods.
And lastly, lecithin is a waxy substance obtained from soybeans. Although it’s commonly used to make fats more blendable, lecithin is believed to improve a dog’s skin and coat.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct appears to be an above-average canned 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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 43% and a mean fat level of 30%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 20% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 70%.
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical canned dog food.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, this looks like the profile of a wet food containing a notable amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Instinct is a grain-free canned dog food using a notable amount of novel meats as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.
Those looking for a nice kibble to go with this product may wish to visit our review of Nature’s Variety Instinct dry dog food.
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
11/02/2010 Original review
05/12/2010 Review updated
10/22/2010 Review updated
07/20/2012 Last Update
- Adapted by the Dog Food Advisor from the official definition for chicken published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008 Edition ↩