Nature’s Variety Prairie Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Nature’s Variety Prairie product line includes eight dry dog foods, six claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and two recipes for growth (puppies).
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Prairie Duck and Oatmeal
- Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal
- Prairie Venison and Barley
- Prairie Beef and Barley (3.5 stars)
- Prairie Chicken and Brown Rice (3.5 stars)
- Prairie Salmon Meal and Brown Rice (3.5 stars)
- Prairie Puppy Chicken Meal and Brown Rice Medley (4.5 stars)
- Prairie Large Breed Puppy Chicken Meal and Brown Rice Medley (4.5 stars)
Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal Recipe
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Lamb, lamb meal, oatmeal, barley, turkey meal, peas, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), sun-cured alfalfa meal, ground flaxseed, natural lamb flavor, menhaden fish meal, montmorillonite clay, carrots, salt, sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, cranberries, 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), minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, ethylenediamine dihydriodide, sodium selenite), choline chloride, potassium chloride, 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 lamb, freeze dried lamb heart, freeze dried lamb liver, pumpkin seeds, ground lamb bone, butternut squash, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, dried kelp, salmon oil, apple cider vinegar, parsley, honey, olive oil, alfalfa sprouts, persimmons, inulin, rosemary, sage, clove, rosemary extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.7%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||27%||14%||51%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||24%||31%||45%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb. Although it is a quality item, raw lamb contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.
After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.
The second ingredient is lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.
The third ingredient is oatmeal, a whole-grain product made from coarsely ground oats. Oatmeal is naturally rich in B-vitamins, dietary fiber and can be (depending upon its level of purity) gluten-free.
The fourth ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fifth item is turkey meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
The sixth 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.
The seventh ingredient is canola oil. Many applaud canola for its favorable omega-3 content while some 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.1
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 eighth 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.
The ninth 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, we note the inclusion of 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 Prairie Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Prairie 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 27% and a mean fat level of 14%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 51% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 54%.
Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effects of the peas, alfalfa meal and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Prairie dog food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of various named meat and fish meals 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.
Those looking for an excellent wet product from the same company may wish to read our review of Nature’s Variety Prairie 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
11/01/2009 Original review
06/07/2011 Review updated
12/21/2012 Review updated
06/20/2013 Review updated
06/20/2013 Last Update