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You can find detailed information aboutNature’s Variety in our main review of Nature’s Variety Dog Food. There you will also find information about how the food is made, recalls, and their quality control measures.
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.
Ingredients in Nature’s Variety Instinct Venison Meal & Lamb Meal Raw Boost Grain Free Dog Food
Venison Meal, Lamb Meal, Turkey Meal, Tapioca, Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Sun-Cured Alfalfa Meal, Turkey Liver, Pumpkinseeds, Natural Turkey Flavor, Freeze Dried Venison, Freeze Dried Lamb Liver, Freeze Dried Lamb Heart, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Biotin, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Montmorillonite Clay, Freeze Dried Ground Lamb Bone, Apples, Carrots, Butternut Squash,Ground Flaxseed, Broccoli, Lettuce, Spinach, Dried Kelp, Apple Cider Vinegar, Parsley, Honey, Salmon Oil, Rosemary Extract, Olive Oil, Blueberries, Alfalfa Sprouts, Persimmons, Inulin, Rosemary, Sage, Clove, Yeast Culture (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae), 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.
Let me preface my comments by saying that this looks like a good food so I am nitpicking a few things here just because it has so many ingredients that you don’t usually see in dog foods. You could probably give your dog most of these things in your kitchen (and I’ve probably fed my dogs a lot of these things). It’s just odd to see them in a dog food ingredient list.
Quick Caution About Dogs With Allergies
First of all, you might think that this is a good food if your dog has allergies because it features venison meal. Let me stop you right there. This food is not going to be good for a dog with allergies. It includes far too many common as well as uncommon dog food ingredients and you’re likely to trigger a reaction from your dog. Even if there is no reaction when you first feed it to an allergy-prone dog, it seems likely that this food and the other foods in this product line (Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free) could trigger an allergy sooner rather than later just because they have so many ingredients. Allergy-prone dogs are generally better off sticking to dog foods that use fewer ingredients and this food uses everything in the kitchen, including spices and herbs. Just because a food is grain free and uses a novel protein doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good choice for a dog with allergies.
Top 5 Ingredients Breakdown
Other than the allergy issues noted above, this appears to be a very high quality dog food and the first 5 ingredients are indicative of that. Venison meal is an excellent meat protein. It’s a good source of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Phosphorus and Zinc, and a very good source of Niacin and Vitamin B12. As a meal, it’s several times more concentrated than the whole meat form of the food since it’s had most of the moisture removed. It makes an excellent dog food ingredient.
The same is true of the next two ingredients, lamb meal and turkey meal. These meals have also had most of the moisture removed and they are present in concentrated forms. They are excellent meat proteins for your dog. Lamb is a good source of Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper and Selenium. Turkey is a good source of Riboflavin and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Selenium.
Tapioca is present as a starch in the food. It doesn’t provide many nutrients but it does provide some omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as some dietary fiber. Some starch is needed in kibble to provide texture and shape for the food in the manufacturing process.
The next ingredient is Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid). Canola oil is made from a cultivar of the rapeseed plant. It contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as vitamin E and vitamin K. It’s added here for fat in the food. Mixed tocopherols are forms of vitamin E; citric acid is vitamin C. These are natural preservatives.
Additional Ingredients of Interest
Alfalfa meal (and later alfalfa sprouts) are sources of protein, vitamin A, vitamin K, thiamine, calcium, and iron. They also provide vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, calcium, and iron.
The food also features turkey liver and natural turkey flavor. Raw food diets usually include organ meat, such as liver, to provide dogs with a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Organs are nutrient-dense and the liver, in particular, is high in vitamin A, the B vitamins, and iron. Turkey liver might be included here to provide some of these vitamins and minerals. Natural turkey flavor is probably included for flavor. It’s much better than the vague ingredient “natural flavor” that you see added to some dog foods.
The food also contains Freeze Dried Venison, Freeze Dried Lamb Liver,Freeze Dried Lamb Heart and Freeze Dried Ground Lamb Bone. These ingredients have been added to “boost” the dry kibble with raw, freeze dried food. Judging by our review of Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Frozen Diet Chicken Formula, these ingredients are just the way they are described – freeze dried meats and organs from the named animals. There is no reason why they shouldn’t work well in this dry kibble. Most dogs will probably enjoy them and they will raise the protein percentage in this food.
Unusual Dog Food Ingredients
After the normal addition of vitamins and minerals in the food (chelated minerals for easier absorption), this is when the food takes an unusual turn on the ingredient label. The food contains lots of vegetables: Apples, Carrots, Butternut Squash, Broccoli, Lettuce, and Spinach. Vegetables in dog food are not that strange but some of these are not normally found such as butternut squash, broccoli, lettuce, and spinach. All of them provide an assortment of vitamins and minerals but they also provide fiber and, to some extent, carbohydrates.
Then the food starts to contain some more esoteric ingredients: Dried Kelp, Apple Cider Vinegar, Parsley, Honey, Salmon Oil, Rosemary Extract, Olive Oil, Blueberries, Alfalfa Sprouts, Persimmons, Inulin, Rosemary, Sage, and Clove. Dried kelp is a source of iodine and other trace minerals and it is often found in other dog foods. Rosemary extract and rosemary are used as preservatives. Blueberries are used as antioxidants. And inulin is a prebiotic derived from chicory. But some of these other ingredients are puzzling. Apple cider vinegar is taken by some people and sometimes given to dogs do adjust the body’s pH. There are also claims that it helps with other health issues such as skin problems but it’s not normally added to dog food. I’m not sure why parsley would be added. Nature’s Variety’s ingredient glossary says it’s known for its pleasant aroma but that’s not a good reason to add it to dog food. I’m not sure why honey would be added to dog food either. Or persimmons for that matter. Cloves are a total mystery.
Salmon oil provides a good source of omega-3 fatty acid. Olive oil is an excellent oil for humans and it’s high in omega-6 fatty acid and vitamin E, but it’s really hard to imagine why it’s being added to dog food.
The ingredient list ends with a number of fermentation products that encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the dog’s gastrointestinal system.
- Crude Protein (min)………. 35.0%
- Crude Fat (min)………. 20.0%
- Crude Fiber (max)………. 4.0%
- Moisture (max)………. 8.0%
- *Omega 3 Fatty Acids (min)………. 1.0%
- *Omega 6 Fatty Acids (min)………. 3.5%
*Not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost™ Venison Meal & Lamb Meal Formula for dogs is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for all life stages.
- Calories per cup (calculated) – 467 kcal/cup
- Calories per kg (calculated) – 3917 kcal/kg
Dry Matter Basis:
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost™ Venison Meal & Lamb Meal Formula has an an estimated protein percentage of 38 percent by dry matter basis. The fat percentage is 21.7; the fiber percentage is 4.35; and it has an estimated 27 percent carbohydrates by dry matter basis. The protein is higher than for most dog foods and it’s high even compared to many grain free foods. The fat percentage is approximately half of the protein percentage (a little more than half) and that’s around the percentage that is usually suggested for dog foods. This is a rich dog food so if your dog is already overweight he certainly won’t lose weight eating this food. Portions should be carefully measured and you should monitor how much food your dog eats. The calories per cup is high so you can probably feed your dog less of this food than many other foods. The carbohydrates in the food are low to moderate.
As already stated, Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost™ Venison Meal & Lamb Meal Formula looks like a good food. I have no problem with the protein, fat, and other percentages in the food. Most of the ingredients look fine. While some of them are unusual in a dog food, your dog will probably enjoy them and I don’t think any of them will be a problem. Dogs with allergies or food intolerances should probably avoid this food. Otherwise, it looks very good.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Venison Meal and Lamb Meal has received our 5 paw rating.
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