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, two claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for growth and six for all life stages.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Prairie Duck and Oatmeal
- Prairie Beef and Barley (3.5 stars)
- Prairie Salmon Meal and Brown Rice
- Prairie Chicken Meal and Brown Rice
- Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal (3.5 stars)
- Prairie Venison and Barley (3.5 stars)
- Prairie Puppy Chicken Meal and Brown Rice
- Prairie Large Breed Puppy Chicken Meal and Brown Rice
Nature’s Variety Prairie Beef and Barley was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Prairie Beef and Barley
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Beef, turkey meal, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), menhaden fish meal, sun-cured alfalfa meal, ground flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, 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 beef, freeze dried beef heart, freeze dried beef liver, pumpkin seeds, ground beef 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||25%||14%||53%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||22%||31%||47%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is beef. Although it’s a quality item, raw beef 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 turkey meal. Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.
The third ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index, barley can help support more stable blood sugar levels.
The fourth 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 fifth 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 sixth ingredient mentions 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 actual meat content of this dog food.
The seventh ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.
The eighth ingredient is menhaden fish meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
Menhaden are small ocean fish related to herring. They’re rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. What’s more, in their mid-depth habitat, menhaden are not exposed to mercury contamination as can be typical with deep water species.
Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1
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.
The tenth 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.
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, 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 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.
Next, this recipe contains dried fermentation products. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal with digestion.
And lastly, we find 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 Dry Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Prairie dry 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 15%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 50% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 54%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Prairie dry dog food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of named meats and meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
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.
You can see a recap of all the product lines made by this company by visiting our summary page… Nature’s Variety Dog Food Reviews.
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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Notes and Updates
11/01/2009 Original review
06/07/2011 Review updated (added 2 puppy recipes)
12/21/2012 Review updated
12/21/2012 Last Update