Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw frozen dog food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.
The Instinct Raw product line includes 5 frozen dog foods.
Depending on the recipe, some are available as bites, medallions, and patties.
Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.
Important: Because many websites do not reliably specify which Growth or All Life Stages recipes are safe for large breed puppies, we do not include that data in this report. Be sure to check actual packaging for that information.
Use links below to compare price and package sizes at an online retailer.
- Instinct Raw Lamb [A]
- Instinct Raw Chicken [A]
- Instinct Raw Beef (5 stars) [A]
- Instinct Raw Small Breed Beef (5 stars) [A]
- Instinct Raw Small Breed Chicken (4 stars) [A]
Instinct Raw Beef Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Instinct Raw Beef Formula
Raw Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Beef, beef liver, beef kidney, beef spleen, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, montmorillonite clay, tricalcium phosphate, ground flaxseed, salmon oil, salt, potassium chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement), choline chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), blueberries, spinach
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.7%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||43%||27%||22%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||33%||50%||17%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is beef. Beef is defined as “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered cattle” and includes skeletal muscle or the muscle tissues of the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus.1
Beef is naturally rich in all ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The second ingredient is beef liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The third ingredient is beef kidney, an organ meat low in fat and rich in protein and essential minerals.
The fourth ingredient is beef spleen, an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a positive addition to this recipe.
The fifth ingredient includes apples, a nutrient-rich fruit that’s also high in fiber.
The sixth ingredient lists carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.
The seventh 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 eighth ingredient is squash. Squash is a nutritious addition high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and dietary 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 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, 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.
In addition, 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.
And lastly, this food 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 Instinct
Raw Frozen Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Instinct Raw Dog Food looks like an above-average raw 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 42% and a mean fat level of 28%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 23% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 67%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical raw dog food.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a raw product containing a notable of meat.
However, with 50% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 33% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.
Instinct Raw is a meat-based raw dog food using a notable amount of 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.
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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Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
07/09/2018 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩