Nature’s Variety Prairie canned dog food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.
The Nature’s Variety Prairie product line includes 11 canned dog foods, four claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and seven for growth and maintenance.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Beef Recipe
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Lamb Recipe
- Nature’s Variety Homestyle Beef Stew
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Chicken Recipe
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Venison Recipe
- Nature’s Variety Homestyle Lamb Stew
- Nature’s Variety Homestyle Chicken Stew (4 stars)
- Nature’s Variety Homestyle Salmon and Wild Rice Stew
- Nature’s Variety Homestyle Pork and Sweet Potato Stew
- Nature’s Variety Homestyle Beef and Bison Stew (4 stars)
- Nature’s Variety Homestyle Turkey and Duck Stew (4 stars)
Nature’s Variety Homestyle Turkey and Duck Stew was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Homestyle Turkey and Duck Stew
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Turkey broth, turkey, turkey liver, chicken, duck, egg whites, brown rice, potato starch, sweet potatoes, peas, spinach, oats, ground flaxseed, montmorillonite clay, guar gum, red peppers, natural flavor, sodium phosphate, menhaden fish oil, 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, potassium chloride, parsley, sunflower oil, garlic powder, taurine, calcium carbonate, flaxseed oil, tricalcium phosphate, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), sage, rosemary, artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||38%||23%||32%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||30%||44%||26%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is turkey broth. Broths are nutritionally empty. But because they add both flavor and moisture to a dog food they are a common addition component in many canned products.
The second ingredient is turkey. Turkey is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of turkey”.1
Turkey is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The third ingredient is turkey liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The next two items are chicken and duck which are additional sources of quality animal protein and essential amino acids.
The sixth ingredient is egg whites. Eggs are highly digestible and an excellent source of usable protein.
The seventh ingredient is brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The eighth ingredient includes potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate used more for its thickening properties than its nutritional value.
The ninth ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.
The next ingredient includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the 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, flaxseed is 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.
Next, 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).
Additionally, sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3′s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.
Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.
There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.
Next, garlic can be a controversial item. Although most experts favor the ingredient for its numerous health benefits, garlic (in rare cases) has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.2
However, the limited professional literature we surveyed provided no definitive warnings regarding the use of garlic — especially when used in small amounts (as it likely is here).
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 Prairie Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Prairie canned dog food looks like an above-average wet 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 39% and a mean fat level of 22%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 31% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical canned dog food.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effects of the peas and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a wet product containing a notable amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Prairie is a meat-based canned dog food using a notable amount of various named meats as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 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.
Those looking for a product with a still higher meat content may wish to check out our review of the company’s 5-star flagship… Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned 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
06/03/2014 Last Update
- Adapted by the Dog Food Advisor and based upon the official definition for chicken published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, Official Publication, 2008 Edition ↩
- Yamato et al, Heinz Body hemolytic anemia with eccentrocytosis from ingestion of Chinese chive (Allium tuberosum) and garlic (Allium sativum) in a dog, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 41:68-73 (2005) ↩