Dog Food Insider

Nature’s Variety Dog Food Review

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Nature’s Variety is a privately held company located in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. They also have offices in St. Louis, Missouri. The company makes holistic pet foods for cats and dogs. They make kibble, canned, raw, and grain free products. Nature’s Variety is backed by the investment firm Catterton Partners. According to the company, their raw foods are 95 percent meat, organs, and raw ground bones, with 5 percent fruits and vegetables.

The company says that they use AAFCO feeding trials to formulate their foods and that their dog foods are complete and balanced for all life stages.



Compare The Best Selling Nature’s Variety Dog Food Blends And Read Reviews From Dog Owners


 

Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recalls

It’s unclear if Nature’s Variety was involved in the 2007 pet food recalls. At the time they assured customers that their products were safe, but the company that was making food for them at the time, M.I. Industries, subsequently sued another pet food maker over the recall and named several Nature’s Variety products in the suit.

The company has had several recalls in the last few years starting with a nationwide voluntary recall of their Raw Frozen Chicken Diets in 2010 due to Salmonella. As a result, the company stated that they added a “test and hold” period to their raw frozen products before releasing them for sale.

In 2012 the company issued a voluntary recall for their Prairie Beef Meal and Barley Medley Kibble for Dogs. There was concern that the product was not staying fresh for its shelf life and that an “off odor” might develop over time.

In February 2013 the company issued a voluntary recall for one batch of Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula for Dogs and Cats because pieces of clear plastic were found in some bags which posed a choking risk.

In 2007 the company’s foods were being made by M.I. Industries in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Nature’s Variety is headquartered, though Nature’s Variety is not currently listed on their site as a customer. Pied Piper Pet & Wildlife, Inc., was also making foods for the company in 2007. They are located in Hamlin, Texas. The Whole Dog Journal identified Pied Piper as still making foods for the company in 2010. Menu Foods, which makes canned foods, has also made pet food for Nature’s Variety and they were involved with recalls in 2007 as well.

Quality Control And Current Manufacturing Practices

Nature’s Variety says on their web site that they make foods, at least their raw foods, at their own facility in Lincoln, Nebraska:


Company-Owned Manufacturing Facility

Our company-owned manufacturing facility is located in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our facility adheres to these specific quality measures:

  • Our ingredients are sourced from USDA inspected facilities and facilities regulated by the FDA
  • We adhere to state and federal regulations regarding product safety
  • Our manufacturing facility is regularly monitored by third party auditors
  • Our manufacturing facility is a USDA Certified Organic Processing Facility and adheres to USDA and EU standards

 


 

Some people who feed raw dislike the HPP process, feeling that the food is no longer really raw. The process does destroy bacteria in the food. There may be some small change in the nutritional value of the food, however, though not as much as with cooking or standard commercial processing.

The company’s raw frozen bones are dipped in a natural antimicrobial solution (a combination of natural lactic acid and citric acid which have been diluted in water) to kill pathogenic bacteria. The company says this doesn’t change the taste or other qualities of the bones.

Nature’s Variety has a good reputation for their foods – raw, kibble, and canned foods – which are marketed as super premium products and pet owners generally seem to believe that the foods contain a high level of nutrition.

Nature’s Variety has a very good reputation for their foods. Hardly anyone will say that their foods aren’t good. The various recalls for different reasons over the years does raise doubts about their quality control. There are also some consumer complaints online on dog message boards from people who had to contact the company about various issues with the food, although the problems were handled without a recall being issued.

Product Overview

Nature’s Variety is an independent pet food company located in St. Louis, Missouri and Lincoln, Nebraska. They make Instinct (grain free), Instinct Raw, and Prairie (holistic) brand pet foods and treats. Their Instinct line of foods includes raw foods, freeze-dried, originals, and limited ingredient diets. Prairie foods come in kibble and canned. The company says they are passionate about providing natural and holistic nutrition for dogs and cats. Their foods are 100 percent free of corn, wheat, soy, chemical preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors. They produce raw frozen diets, dry kibbles, canned food, and treats. Some of their foods are organic.

Dry Foods

Dry Foods

  • Lifestage Recipes
  • Puppy Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Puppy Chicken Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Small Bites Chicken Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Grain-Free Puppy Chicken Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe
  • Large Breed Puppy Recipe
  • Adult Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Adult Chicken Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Senior Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe

Special Needs

  • Healthy Skin Venison Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Healthy Skin Vegetarian Recipe
  • Easy To Digest Fish Meal & Potato Recipe
  • Easy To Digest Chicken Meal, Rice & Barley Recipe
  • Small Breed Grain Free Easy to Digest Chicken Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe
  • Large Breed Grain Free Easy to Digest Chicken Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe
  • Small Bites Chicken Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Large Breed Chicken Meal & Oatmeal Recipe
  • Terrier Breed Chicken Barley & Rice Recipe
  • Healthy Weight Chicken Meal, Rice & Barley Recipe
  • High Protein Chicken Meal & Lamb Meal Recipe
  • Joint Health Fish Meal & Chicken Meal Recipe

Wet Dog Food Cups

  • Chicken & Turkey Recipe in Broth
  • Chicken & Wild Salmon Recipe in Broth
  • Chicken Recipe in Broth
  • Grain-Free Easy to Digest Chicken & Duck Recipe in Broth
  • Grain-Free Easy to Digest Chicken & Venison Recipe in Broth
  • Pure Essentials Duck Recipe in Broth
  • Pure Essentials Venison Recipe in Broth
  • Pure Essentials Grain Free Chicken Recipe in Broth
  • Pure Essentials Grain Free Salmon Recipe in Broth
  • Pure Essentials Grain Free Lamb Recipe in Broth

Canned Foods

  • Grain Free Chicken & Turkey Stew
  • Grain Free Chicken & Venison Stew
  • Pure Essentials Grain Free Salmon Recipe in Broth
  • Pure Essentials Grain Free Chicken Recipe in Broth
  • Pure Essentials Grain Free Lamb Recipe in Broth

Treats

  • Grain Free Lamb & Sweet Potato Mini Biscuits
  • Grain Free Chicken & Sweet Potato Mini Biscuits
  • Grain Free Biscuits Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Grain Free Biscuits Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Soft Bites Made with Real Beef & Cheese
  • Soft Bites Made with Real Chicken & Cheese
  • Soft Minis Made with Real Bacon
  • Soft Minis Made with Real Chicken
  • Soft Sticks Made with Real Bacon and Cheese
  • Soft Sticks Made with Real Peanut Butter
  • Crunchy Minis Made with Real Cheese
  • Crunchy Minis Made with Real Peanut Butter

Review of Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula

Nature’s Variety makes an organic version of this formula that is priced higher but this particular food appears to be their most popular raw frozen formula so that’s why I chose it for review. It comes in lots of different sizes – 3 lbs, 6 lbs, in trial-size bags, in chubs, as patties, and so on, so if you’re interested in their raw frozen formulas, they probably have a size to suit your dog. The foods are widely available at many (though not all) of the big pet stores, from Amazon, and other online pet retailers. The raw and fresh pet food market is a small portion of the total pet retail sales market but it’s growing fast, so you can expect to see raw foods in more stores in the future.


 

Ingredients in Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula

Chicken (including Ground Chicken Bone), Turkey Heart, Turkey Liver, Yeast Culture, Pumpkin Seeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Apples, Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Salt, Cod Liver Oil, Dried Kelp, Carrots, Spinach, Dried Chicory Root, Blueberries.


 

Ingredients Overview

According to the company, their raw food diets are made from freshly ground USDA meat, organ meats, and bone and all of these foods are 95 percent meat, organs, and bone. They are rich in vitamins A, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, Biotin; Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, zinc, and manganese. The remaining 5 percent of the food consists of food that starts out as human edible such as organic sprouts, fruits, vegetables, and cold-processed Norwegian virgin salmon oil.

Nature’s Variety also uses an organic source of trace minerals in their foods called montmorillonite. This is a clay named after a region in France.

According to the company, all of the meats used in their foods are free-range, free of antibiotics and free of hormones, as well as being USDA-inspected.

Top 5 Ingredients Breakdown

The top 5 ingredients included in Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula are: Chicken (including Ground Chicken Bone), Turkey Heart, Turkey Liver, Yeast Culture, and Pumpkin Seeds. Below you will find a brief explanation of each of these ingredients:

Chicken = Chicken is a good source of protein and it has a bioavailability of about 79 on a scale of 100, making its nutrients highly available for your dog’s body to digest. If you like the idea of feeding raw but you have fears about bones, then ground bones are a good way to go. The raw ground bones are softer than any cooked bones and shouldn’t have jagged edges (though it’s always possible). The bone is also a good source of calcium and should help to keep the calcium/phosphorus ratio in balance in the food, although the company doesn’t provide these ratios so we can’t check.

Turkey Heart = In addition to being rich in protein, turkey hearts also contain high levels of riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6, iron, zinc, and phosphorus – they also contain plenty of taurine.

Turkey Liver = Turkey liver is leaner than turkey hearts but it is still rich in protein and other nutrients. This organ meat offers thiamine, manganese, vitamin A, folate, iron, zinc and more.

Yeast Culture = This is a somewhat controversial ingredient. Some say that yeast is a valuable source of protein and other healthy nutrients while others say that it may be linked to food allergies in dogs.

Pumpkin Seeds = Pumpkin seeds are rich in dietary fiber and they also contain trace nutrients and various vitamins and minerals like linoleic acid.

Additional Ingredients Of Interest

Aside from the top five ingredients, there are several other notable ingredients found in Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula. Some of these ingredients include: montmorillonite clay, cod liver oil, dried kelp, dried chicory root, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. According to Nature’s Variety, Montmorillonite Clay is an organic source of trace minerals. Dogs and all of us need trace minerals though we only need very small amounts of them. Cod liver oil contains fatty acids and dried kelp is a good source of vitamin K and various trace minerals. Inulin comes from chicory and it’s a good prebiotic for digestion. This raw food recipe also includes a number of fresh fruits and vegetables. Broccoli is a vegetable but it’s also a great source of vitamin C. Spinach is a good source of vitamin K while blueberries contain powerful antioxidants.

Quality Of Ingredients

The quality of the ingredients looks excellent. Not only does Nature’s Variety say they use free-range, antibiotic-free, hormone-free (all poultry in the U.S. is hormone-free) meats, but the vegetables and other ingredients in the food are human edible when they start out. There is no grain in this raw food (and you wouldn’t expect any); no artificial preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or artificial flavorings. It looks like an exceptionally good food. And they do have an organic version if you don’t mind paying more.

Check out our article on grain free dog food as well as our article on a raw food diet for dogs to learn more about how these nutritoin plans could effect your dogs health.


 

Compare The Best Selling Nature’s Variety Dog Food Blends And Read Reviews From Dog Owners


 

Special Concerns

I don’t really see any problems here. I’m not sure why a couple of these ingredients have been added (they make me think of sausage), but the food looks great. I do wish the company had included the calcium to phosphorus ratio. I think it’s important to know that information in a raw food that has so much meat and bone.

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Crude Protein (min) ….. 15.0%
  • Crude Fat (min) ….. 12.0%
  • Crude Fiber (max) ….. 2.0%
  • Moisture (max) ….. 65.0%

Calorie Content Metabolizable Energy (ME): 65 calories per ounce or 520 calories per cup. (This is a very calorie-dense food so be sure to follow the feeding suggestions. You won’t have to feed as much of this food as you normally feed with most kibble)

Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Nature’s Variety® Instinct® Chicken Formula provides complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages of dogs and cats.

Special Note: Nature’s Variety conducts feeding tests to meet AAFCO approval and they don’t just rely on nutrient profiles. Animal feeding tests are a higher threshold, though some people will still complain that the standards aren’t stringent enough.

In order to convert the raw food to a “dry matter basis” we’ll do the following:

  1. Calculate the dry matter of the canned food by deducting the moisture percentage (65%) from 100, (i.e., 100 – 65 = 35%).
  2. Now, using this dry matter figure of 35%, apply the formula to each of the components, as follows:
    • Protein: 15 divided by 35 x 100 = 42.86%
    • Fat: 12 divided by 35 x 100 = 34.29%
    • Fiber: 2 divided by 35 x 100 = 5.7%

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula provides 42.86 percent crude protein (Minimum), which is well above the government’s recommendations (18 percent for adult dogs). This higher percentage protein is not unusual in a raw food which are sometimes over 50 percent protein. The 34.3 percent fat in Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula is also well above the government’s recommendations (9 to 15 percent for an adult dog) but, again, this is not unusual for a raw food. The food contains 5.7 percent fiber which is a littler higher than the government’s recommended range of 4-4.5 percent but the food also contains ground bone which can cause constipation in dogs, so the higher fiber probably won’t be a problem.

Bottomline

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula looks like an excellent food for anyone interested in feeding a raw frozen diet to their dog. Do keep a heads up for possible recalls if you feed this brand.

Natures Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula has received our 5 paw rating.

Last Updated On 12/20/2015

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