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Review: Instinct Frozen Raw Dog Food

Dog waiting patiently to eat his instinct raw frozen dog food
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Now, more than ever, pet parents want nothing but the best for their furry family members. This is especially true when it comes to what’s on the menu at mealtime. Instead of the same old standbys — traditional kibble and canned dog food — more and more pet parents are turning to new dog food options touted as cleaner, tastier, and healthier for dogs.

Alongside freshly prepared pet food and customized diets, raw dog food is a growing category in the dog food market. According to a report by Maximize Market Research, online sales of raw

pet food exploded in recent years, increasing 53 percent by 2020.1 And a forecast by DataIntelo predicts the global market for raw pet food will grow around 4.2 percent by 2028.2

Raw diets for dogs are hardly a new concept. Dogs — both domesticated and wild — dined on raw meat long before the pet food industry was invented. However, the rise of commercially produced raw dog food offers pet parents easier, safer, nutritionally complete ways to tap into the benefits often associated with raw feeding.

There are plenty of raw dog food options on the market for pet parents to consider. Here, we look at one standout brand – Instinct Raw Dog Food from Nature’s Variety.

What is Instinct Raw?

Dog head tilted at camera

Known as the leading brand in raw pet food, Instinct Raw is produced by Nature’s Variety, a natural pet food company with 20 years of experience in holistic pet nutrition. The brand offers a wide variety of raw feeding options for both cats and dogs, all dedicated to delivering on its mission — “to bring the science-backed, life-enhancing benefits of raw food diets to as many pets as possible.” 

Every Instinct Raw recipe is crafted with real, whole ingredients — including responsibly sourced proteins and non-GMO fruits and vegetables — that are never cooked to preserve their full nutritional benefits. These ingredients are largely sourced from within the United States, with occasional global sourcing for specific ingredients like lamb from New Zealand. All Instinct Raw products are manufactured in company kitchens at the brand’s Lincoln, Nebraska headquarters. 

While Instinct Frozen Raw Dog Food is perhaps the best-known option in the brand’s raw dog foods lineup, the variety of feeding options is what separates Instinct Raw from the competition. Here’s a quick breakdown of all the raw formulas Instinct offers.

  • Frozen Raw – 100% raw meals frozen for maximum freshness, available in patties or bites 
  • Freeze-Dried Raw – 100% raw meals freeze-dried for convenience and shelf-stability, available in bite-sized pieces you can scoop and serve just like kibble
  • Raw + Kibble – Meals made from a mix of freeze-dried raw bites and high-protein kibble 
  • Raw Toppers – Freeze-dried raw meal toppers available in bite-sized pieces or powder form
  • Raw-Coated Kibble – Grain-free kibble coated in crushed, freeze-dried raw formula

The Scoop on Instinct Raw Frozen Raw Dog Food

Instinct Raw Frozen Food

Instinct Raw’s frozen raw dog food offers raw nutrition in its purest form. Each recipe is deliberately simple, featuring premium proteins as the first ingredient, in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables. Because the ingredients are never cooked and frozen raw for maximum freshness, you’re getting raw dog food that’s minimally processed to provide optimal nutritional benefits. 

Instinct Raw frozen meals for dogs come in two main formulas:

Instinct Raw – 100% raw meals optimized for all life stages, designed to make feeding dogs a raw diet easy and cost-effective

Instinct Raw Longevity – advanced, 100% raw formula optimized for all life stages, specifically crafted to help pets live longer, healthy lives 

Both lines offer formulas for puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs (7 years and older). And both come in two different formats to suit your dog’s preferences — either bite-sized frozen chunks or larger frozen patties. 

As for flavors, each line offers a tantalizing array. Instinct Raw is available in cage-free chicken, real beef, and grass-fed lamb recipes, while Instinct Raw Longevity features those options plus a farm-raised rabbit recipe and one featuring grass-fed beef and wild-caught cod. All Instinct Raw frozen meals are made without grain, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, and artificial preservatives.

The other difference is in the health benefits Instinct Raw attributes to its frozen formulas. According to the brand, Instinct Raw helps improve digestion, improves overall energy, and promotes skin and coat health. Instinct Raw Longevity has an advanced formula based on 10 years of research conducted by the University of Helsinki, so the claims are more specific: Recipes feature protein for healthy muscles, taurine for healthy heart function, probiotics and fiber for gut health, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, vitamins A and E, zinc, and selenium for immune health.

Instinct Raw Frozen Meals: Our Verdict 

Dog licking lips hungry and excited to eat dinner

Instinct Raw Frozen provides pet parents considering raw dog food an easy, appealing way to get started, with a variety of formats and flavors that can suit even the pickiest of eaters. 

Things We Like

  • Instinct Raw is committed to nutrition and science. Backed by 20 years of holistic pet food experience, Instinct Raw is driven to provide your pet with the best complete and balanced nutrition possible. We love that its research-backed raw formulas are all designed to make pets happier and healthier.  
  • Beyond nutrition, Instinct Raw is transparent in ingredient sourcing and sustainability efforts. Instinct Raw has worked to become a part of the Pet Sustainability Coalition, helping better the planet with cleaner ingredient sourcing and packaging on some products. 
  • Instinct Raw’s product variety is vast. We love the variety that Instinct Raw offers its customers. No matter whether you have a puppy, adult, or senior dog, there’s an Instinct Raw flavor or type of food for them. 

Things to Consider

  • Some of Instinct Raw’s products have storage considerations. Frozen food needs to be kept at specific temperatures, and is not shelf-stable for the pantry.  
  • Raw diets remain a subject of debate. While advocates tout the benefits of raw dog food, the topic is still debated by experts. Before making any definitive decision, always consult with your own veterinarian to determine what’s best for you and your dog. 

Instinct Raw: Tips and Advice 

Hungry dog eating instinct raw frozen dog food

As pet parents begin to consider transitioning to raw, Instinct Raw provides a few pieces of advice. 

  • Ease your pet into a raw diet. Like any transition to a new food, transitioning to Instinct Raw should be done slowly to avoid any digestive upset.
  • Shop the product that best suits the needs of your pet…and your household. Frozen raw dog food requires appropriate space and conditions for safe storage and thawing. Be sure to take those considerations into account before you purchase. Shop the product line that makes the most sense for you. If frozen raw isn’t the right fit, consider the brand’s more shelf-stable options. 
  • Follow the same general guidelines for handling Instinct Raw that you’d follow with any raw meat. Be sure to wash your hands, surfaces, and utensils that touch meat, and generally try not to keep raw meat in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours.
  • Be mindful of the product format when thawing. Depending on the product, thaw times of Instinct Raw’s frozen products will vary at room temperature. Raw bites take about 5-15 minutes to thaw, while patties can take 4-6 hours. Instinct Raw suggests meal planning for your pet to stay ahead of schedule, prepping the next meal and allowing it to thaw in the fridge so it’s ready come mealtime.
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