Which Instinct Canned Recipes Get
Our Best Ratings?
Nature’s Variety Instinct Original canned dog food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.
The Instinct Original product line includes the 6 canned dog foods listed below.
Each recipe includes its AAFCO nutrient profile when available… Growth (puppy), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.
Recipe and Label Analysis
Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.
Label and nutrient data below are calculated using dry matter basis.
Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken, turkey, chicken broth, chicken liver, ground flaxseed, montmorillonite clay, dicalcium phosphate, egg product, peas, potassium chloride, carrots, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, cobalt proteinate, potassium iodide), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), choline chloride, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, menhaden fish oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 13.6%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||43%||39%||10%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||29%||64%||7%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1
The second ingredient is turkey, another quality named ingredient.
Both chicken and turkey are naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The third ingredient is chicken broth. Broths are of only modest nutritional value. Yet because they add both flavor and moisture to a dog food, they are a common component in many canned products.
The fourth ingredient is chicken liver, an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The fifth 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.
The next ingredient is montmorillonite clay, 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).
The seventh ingredient is dicalcium phosphate, likely used here as a dietary calcium supplement.
The eighth ingredient is egg product, an unspecified (wet or dry?) form of shell-free eggs. Quality can vary significantly. Lower grade egg product can even come from commercial hatcheries — from eggs that have failed to hatch.
In any case, eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.
The ninth 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.
From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.
But realistically, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this Nature’s Variety Instinct product.
With 3 notable exceptions…
First, we find menhaden fish oil. Menhaden are small ocean fish related to herring. Their oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids, two high quality fats boasting the highest bio-availability to both dogs and humans.
What’s more, in their mid-depth habitat, menhaden are not as likely to be exposed to mercury contamination as is typical with deep water species.
Next, this food contains sodium selenite, a controversial form of the mineral selenium. Sodium selenite appears to be nutritionally inferior to the more natural source of selenium found in selenium yeast.
And lastly, this recipe includes 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.
Based on its ingredients alone, Instinct Original canned dog food looks like an above-average wet product.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 44% and a mean fat level of 26%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 22% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 58%.
Which means this Instinct product line contains…
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to other canned dog foods.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed and peas, this looks like the profile of a wet product containing a significant amount of meat.
However, with 64% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 29% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.
Our Rating of Instinct Canned Dog Food
Instinct Original is a grain-free canned dog food using a significant amount of named meats as its dominant source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.
Those looking for a nice kibble to go with this product may wish to visit our review of Instinct dry dog food.
Instinct Dog Food Recall History
The following automated list (if present) includes all dog food recalls related to Nature’s Variety through November 2023.
- 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)
You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls since 2009 here.
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More Nature’s Variety Brand Reviews
The following Nature’s Variety dog food reviews are also posted on this website:
- Instinct Be Natural Dog Food Review (Dry)
- Instinct Dog Food Review
- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food Review (Canned)
- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food Review (Dry)
- Instinct Raw Boost Dog Food Review (Dry)
- Instinct Raw Frozen Diets Dog Food Review (Raw Frozen)
A Final Word
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- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩