Nature’s Variety Instinct Dog Food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.
The Nature’s Variety Instinct product line includes five dry 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 Rabbit Meal
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Salmon Meal
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Chicken Meal
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Beef Meal and Lamb Meal
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Duck Meal and Turkey Meal
Nature’s Variety Instinct Duck Meal and Turkey Meal was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Instinct Duck Meal and Turkey Meal
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Duck meal, turkey meal, salmon meal, tapioca, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tomato pomace, pumpkinseeds, herring meal, sun-cured alfalfa meal, montmorillonite clay, natural flavor, vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid, biotin, niacin supplement, vitamin A acetate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin B12 supplement, carotene, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), salt, dried kelp, peas, cranberries, blueberries, inulin, rosemary extract, yeast culture (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, freeze dried turkey, freeze dried turkey liver, freeze dried turkey heart, freeze dried ground turkey bone
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||39%||24%||29%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||31%||47%||23%|
The first two ingredients in this dog food include duck meal and turkey meal. Duck meal and turkey meal are both considered meat concentrates and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh poultry.
The third ingredient includes salmon meal, another high protein meat concentrate.
Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1
The fourth ingredient is tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.
The fifth ingredient is canola oil. Many applaud canola for its favorable omega-3 content while a vocal minority condemn it as an unhealthy fat.
Much of the objection regarding canola oil appears to be related to the use of genetically modified rapeseed as its source material.
Yet others find the negative stories about canola oil more the stuff of urban legend than actual science.3
In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.
The sixth ingredient is tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.
Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.
Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.
The seventh ingredient is pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and, more importantly, linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fat.
The eighth ingredient is herring meal, yet another high protein meat concentrate.
The ninth ingredient is alfalfa meal. Although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more commonly associated with horse feeds.
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 we find 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).
Next, we note the inclusion of 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.
In addition, we find dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal with digestion.
And lastly, this food also 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 Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct Dog Food looks like an above average dry 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 41% and a mean fat level of 24%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 28% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 58%.
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Free of any plant-based protein boosters, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Dog Food is a grain free kibble using a significant amount of various named meat and fish meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.
Please note some products may have been given higher or lower ratings 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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11/03/2009 Original review
05/12/2010 Review updated
09/05/2010 Review updated (new recipe)
01/26/2011 Review updated (added Beef Recipe)
03/21/2011 Review updated (added Salmon Recipe
11/23/2012 Last Update