Nature’s Variety Prairie (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

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

Protein = 28% | Fat = 16% | Carbs = 49%

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
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis25%14%NA
Dry Matter Basis28%16%49%
Calorie Weighted Basis24%33%43%
Protein = 24% | Fat = 33% | Carbs = 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 28%, a fat level of 146 and estimated carbohydrates of about 49%.

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.

Bottom line?

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.

Highly recommended.

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
Recall History

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.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

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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A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely almost entirely on the integrity of the information posted by each company on its website. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the quality of the test results from any specific batch of food a company chooses to publish.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

However, we do receive a fee from Chewy.com for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

12/10/2015 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Joanne Debons

    I was considering that. Thank you for all of your good advice and links.

  • Crazy4dogs

    The laundry room might be part of the problem with your dog. Many sites recommend storing dry food in a cool, dry place off the floor. A pantry is often recommended. The laundry room is usually high in humidity and can fluctuate between warm and cool. If the bag is paper, it will absorb the moisture.

    Here are a couple of links:

    http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/frequently-asked-questions/how-to-feed-dog/

    http://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/jcoates/2012/apr/how_to_keep_dog_food_fresh-13975

  • Joanne Debons

    I store it in its bag in the laundry room but the bag’s seal doesn’t work well so I end up using a bag clip to keep the air out. My vet thinks Sam has IBS and I’m waiting for test results for food intolerance. I do notice that the gas is far worse when I’m toward the end of the bag and I’ve been throwing out the bag when it still has about 1/4 Left. I also was reading about the Bottom of the Bag syndrome and was relieved to see that I wasn’t loosing my mind thinking there may be some connection.

  • Crazy4dogs

    That’s about the right length, Are you storing it in the original container and in a cool, dry place, not on cement? Is he only getting the gas towards the end of the bag? If so, it sounds kind of like a storage issue. If he’s getting gas all the time, he probably needs either a different food (brand) or a different protein.

  • Joanne Debons

    About 3 weeks

  • Crazy4dogs

    How long does it take you to use the bag? Your dog might be experiencing what’s known as “Bottom of the Bag Syndrome”.

  • Joanne Debons

    My dog gets gas from the lamb and oatmeal

  • Joanne Debons

    I’ve noticed that when I get to about 1/4 left in bag of Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal my dog develops gas and digestive upset. Anyone else’s dog experiencing this?

  • Shea

    I was thinking about switching my maltese mix to prairie from zignature since shes not liking it at all. I have been reading some pretty bad reviews on this site from 2 years ago. Most of the other sites I have researched about this brand have been positive. Any insight about this food from anyone using it this past year? Thanks!

  • Pattyvaughn

    LOL!! Every time it rains, the bugs that should be outside like to come in. We have a plagues worth of several different varieties of pests.

  • Crazy4cats

    Well, of course. You have all kinds of wild creatures and dolphins to keep out in your neck of the woods 🙂

  • Pattyvaughn

    I have metal trashcans with tight fitting lids.

  • Crazy4cats

    Well, I use 20 gallon trash cans with lids to hold my dog food in their original bags. The biggest bag I’ve had so far is 30 lbs and they fit in easily. I’m not sure how to convert to kgs. It’s kept the bugs and furry creatures out so far. I keep them in the garage. I would be scarred for life if I reached my arm in at 4 am one morning and a mouse ran up it. Eek!

  • Bob K

    HDM – I tend to agree with you, that’s why its important to use fresh food that is stored properly. Partially open bags of kibble are magnets for insects. Insects can come from many places even in cold winter months. Drains, indoor plants, carpets, clothing, etc….. I always buy kibble within a few days of when I need it and keep it stored in a large sealed plastic container that I wash with soap and water after every filling from a 40lb, bag.

  • Nir

    Thank you so much .
    Can you refer me for cans for 13.7 kg bags to put it inside with the bag itself?

    Thanks

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