Nature’s Variety Prairie Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Nature’s Variety Prairie product line lists four 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 Prairie Salmon and Brown Rice
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Chicken and Brown Rice
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Beef and Barley (3.5 stars)
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal (4 stars)
Nature’s Variety Prairie Salmon and Brown Rice was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Prairie Salmon and Brown Rice
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, brown rice, oatmeal, barley, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), peas, menhaden fish meal, suncured alfalfa meal, ground flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, montmorillonite clay, potassium chloride, 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, yeast culture, 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 chicken (including freeze dried ground chicken bone), freeze dried turkey liver, pumpkinseeds, rosemary extract, butternut squash, dried kelp, broccoli, salmon oil, apple cider vinegar, dried chicory root
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.1%
Red items indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||28%||16%||49%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||24%||33%||43%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is salmon. Although it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, raw salmon 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 salmon meal. Because it is considered a meat concentrate, fish meal contains almost 300% more protein than fresh fish itself.
Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1
The third 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 fourth 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 fifth ingredient includes 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 sixth ingredient is canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because it can sometimes (but not always) be derived from genetically modified rapeseed.
Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
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 seventh 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 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.
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, 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, we note the inclusion of chicory root. Chicory is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.
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, 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.
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 28% and a mean fat level of 16%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 49% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.
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, alfalfa meal and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Prairie is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of various species 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 and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.
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.
Nature’s Variety Dog Food
The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Dog Food Recall of July 2015 (7/24/2015)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall February 2013 (2/15/2013)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall July 2012 (7/12/2012)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall March 2010 (3/9/2010)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall February 2010 (2/14/2010)
To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.
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Notes and Updates
12/10/2015 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩