Disclosure: When you buy through links on this site, we may earn a commission.
Disclosure: Watchdog Labs is free to use. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn a commission.
Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe is a mid-priced dog food with great quality. This product has no controversial ingredients, including zero artificial preservatives, colors and flavors - that’s fantastic. It has very well-balanced amounts of protein, fat and carbs, with an excellent quality of meat and fat. Be aware that Instinct has an above-average number of dog food recalls, and the company was extremely transparent when answering our questions. Watchdog Labs recommends this product.Read the Full Review Below
This food has well-balanced amounts of protein, fat, and carbs. Diets that are high in protein and fat, with moderate to low carbs, are ideal for most dogs.
To evaluate dog foods, we first calculate out the moisture. This is called the “dry matter basis” and shows you only the solid ingredients in the food. These estimated “dry matter” numbers are different from the food label, but a better way to understand the real nutritional value of the food. We also calculate the carbs. Find out more
Min. Protein 41.11%
Min. Fat 22.22%
Min. Carbs 28.89%
Max. Fiber 3.33%
Max. Ash 7.78%
Max. Moisture 0.00%
Min. Protein: 37.0%
Min Fat: 20.0%
Min Carbs: N/A
Max Fiber: 3.0%
Max Ash: N/A
Max. Moisture: 10.0%
499 Calories per Cup
This product has a relatively high amount of calories. It’s important to understand how many calories you are feeding to prevent under or overfeeding. If your dog has fair to low activity levels, you may want to feed less than the labels recommend amount, since high-calorie foods like this are often feed to more active dogs who require a higher amount of daily calories. It's helpful to know that weight loss foods often have fewer than 340 calories per cup, weight maintenance foods typically range from 340-380 calories, and high-activity dog foods are usually over 400 calories.
Grain-Free Dog Foods
This is a grain-free dog food. The FDA is investigating a potential connection between grain-free diets and canine heart disease. There is not enough evidence yet to affect our ratings but we've created an article for you explaining the topic.Learn More
Chicken, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chickpeas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Salmon Meal, Chicken Eggs, Tapioca, Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Menhaden Fish Meal, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Montmorillonite Clay, Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Salt, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Potassium Chloride, Freeze Dried Chicken, Choline Chloride, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Pumpkinseeds, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract
The average dog food we reviewed has 39 total ingredients, with 1 controversial ingredient. Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe has 0 controversial ingredients.
Top 5 Ingredients
Dog food ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. So when looking at dog food label, take a close look at the first 5 ingredients. They make up about 80% of the total weight.
Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe has no controversial ingredients, so nothing to report here.
Country of Origin
Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe is manufactured in the USA. It’s always a good thing, because the United States has strong dog food quality standards in place, compared to many other countries.
Meat & Fat Quality
Chicken, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Salmon Meal, Chicken Eggs, and Menhaden Fish Meal are the main protein and fat sources in this dog food. All of them clearly show you which animal they come from, making the ingredients very transparent and high-quality.
This product contains zero controversial preservatives on the ingredients list, that’s fantastic. It’s good to know that not all artificial preservatives are bad. That’s because they serve an important purpose, which is to prevent food from spoiling. However, we consider 11 artificial preservatives controversial because of their potential link to cancer and other serious health conditions.
Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe skips the artificial colors as well. That’s a big plus.
No preservatives, no colors, and no artificial flavors either. This food shines in all three areas equally, really great.
Nature's Variety has an above average number of total recalls, compared to other dog food brands.
We love dog food brands that are committed to transparent business practices. If you make quality dog food you should be willing to openly talk about how it’s sourced and produced. That’s why we reached out to pet food companies, asking questions about all their brands and products. Each company had three weeks to reply to our messages.
How Easy Was it to Reach the Company?
Instinct answered in two days with a great response. All questions were fully answered with no follow-up emails required. There were few companies that answered this clearly and quickly.
Does Instinct by Nature have a veterinary nutritionist on staff? If so, who are they?
We do have multiple Nutritionists with PhDs on staff, however, the formulation of our diets is a collaborative effort between our Nutrition Council composed of veterinarians and our Research and Development Team. The doctors on the nutrition team are: Susan G. Wynn, DVM, CVA, CVCH, RH(AHG) Veterinary Nutrition and Integrative Medicine Service & Dr. Lea Stogdale, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM Holistic and Integrative Medicine and Care.
Its great to see this level of transparency on the first email response. Knowing exactly who the individuals are working on the food we feed our dogs is insightful.
Who formulates your recipes, and what are their credentials?
See previous answer.
Do you test your products using AAFCO feeding trials? Why, or why not?
All our products meet AAFCO requirements. Our kibble and canned foods meet AAFCO requirements for nutrition (analysis), but have not undergone feeding trials. Our raw diets have gone through feeding trials and meet AAFCO requirements for nutrition. We do a nutritional analysis on all of our complete and balanced products.
What country are your products manufactured?
Our products are all manufactured in the U.S. – kibble in Kansas through CJ Foods, cans in Kansas through Simmons, and our Instinct Raw line is manufactured in our own facility in Lincoln, Nebraska.
All this detail was provided in the initial response. That’s a great sign of transparency.
Can your manufacturing facilities be visited?
They are not open to the public.
What quality measures do you use to assure consistency and quality?
Pet health and safety has always been our top priority. We believe your pets – and ours – deserve nothing less than superior quality foods. With all of our products, we utilize robust systems to ensure the quality and safety of our foods. Our quality control and quality assurance programs include but are not limited to: Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP’s), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s), A Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) Program, Lot Segregation, other human food industry best practices, and High Pressure Processing (HPP). At every point in the process – from raw material receiving to finished product – there are quality steps and check points. Raw materials and finished products are routinely tested. The manufacturing plant and any warehouses where the product is stored are also inspected on a routine basis. We are confident that we produce high quality, safe products. Please be assured, Nature's Variety has and will continue to enforce only the strictest quality standards in the pet food industry.
Does Instinct by Nature own its manufacturing facility? If it is another company, what company is it?
Previous answer covers this. They have their own facility in Lincoln Nebraska, and work with CJ Foods as well as Simmons.
Do any parts of your product come from China?
We take every step to source non-China ingredients where we can. We do not source any of our meat, poultry or fish from China. Our raw frozen diets are also not made with any ingredients from China. Our kibble diets may contain minor ingredients (vitamins, trace nutrients) sourced from China to ensure supply is guaranteed. Our approved supplier has put in measures to assure food safety and traceability from a trusted supply chain.
Linda P Case, MS; Daniel P Carey, DVM; and Diane A Hirakawa, PhD, Canine and Feline Nutrition A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals, Mosby-Year Book, Inc.