Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein product line includes 3 dry dog foods.

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.

  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Duck [M]
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Chicken [M]
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Small Breed [A]

Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Duck recipe was selected to represent both products in the line for this review.

Nature's Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Duck Recipe

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 52% | Fat = 19% | Carbs = 21%

Ingredients: Duck, chicken, chicken eggs, tapioca, ground flaxseed, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, dried whey protein concentrate, dicalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, salt, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), montmorillonite clay, choline chloride, taurine, freeze dried duck (including freeze dried ground duck bone), pumpkinseeds, dried Bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.3%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis47%17%NA
Dry Matter Basis52%19%21%
Calorie Weighted Basis44%39%18%
Protein = 44% | Fat = 39% | Carbs = 18%

The first two ingredients in this dog food are duck and chicken. Although quality items, raw poultry 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, these items would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The third ingredient includes eggs. Eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.

The fourth ingredient is tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.

The fifth ingredient is ground flaxseed, one of the best plant-based sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Flax meal is particularly 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 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.

After the natural flavor, we find tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.

Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.

Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.

The ninth ingredient is whey protein concentrate. Whey is a by-product of the cheese industry. This particular type of whey is high in protein (80%) and moderate in the milk sugar, lactose (10%).

Concentrates of this nature can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

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 dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal with digestion.

In addition, 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.

And lastly, this food includes menadione, a controversial form of vitamin K linked to liver toxicity, allergies and the abnormal break-down of red blood cells.

Since vitamin K isn’t required by AAFCO in either of its dog food nutrient profiles, we question the use of this substance in any canine formulation.

Nature’s Variety Instinct
Ultimate Protein Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein looks like an 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 52%, a fat level of 19% and estimated carbohydrates of about 21%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 52% and a mean fat level of 19%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 21% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 37%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed, this still looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.

However, it’s unfortunate the company chose to include menadione in its recipe. Without this controversial ingredient, we may have been compelled to award this line a higher rating.

Bottom line?

Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein is a grain-free, meat-based dry dog food using a significant amount of named meat as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

Highly recommended.

However, those concerned about the presence of menadione in this recipe may wish to ignore our rating and look elsewhere for another product.

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
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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Special FDA Alert

The FDA has announced it is investigating a potential connection between grain-free diets and a type of canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy. Click here for details.

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Notes and Updates

08/13/2017 Last Update