Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023

Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023
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For this list of Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023, we looked at dehydrated/air dried foods, canned foods and kibbles.

Freeze-dried foods are not included here as they’ll be ranked in a separate list. You may also want to check out the Best Raw Dog Foods For 2023.

To qualify as “natural” for this review, we chose only foods without any added vitamins and minerals, then we ranked those foods according to our evaluation criteria for ingredient quality and ingredient safety.

Natural is a term that’s often hijacked by pet food marketing teams. It joins “holistic” as an overused word that has little meaning under regulatory pet food standards. Here’s how AAFCO defines “natural” …

“A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”

The FDA says  “For the most part, “natural” can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, colors, or artificial preservatives in the product.”

Neither of these definitions talks about synthetic vitamins and minerals that manufacturers add to almost all commercial pet foods.

When we refer to “natural” foods we mean foods that derive their nutrients from fresh, whole food ingredients. Ideally, a fresh, whole food diet provides the best level of nutrients for your dog without needing added vitamins and minerals. 

Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023

1. Sundays

7.5/10

Ingredient List For Beef Recipe: USDA beef, beef heart, beef liver, beef bone, quinoa, pumpkin, wild salmon oil, sunflower oil, zucchini, kale, flaxseed, sea salt, parsley, kelp, chicory root, turmeric, mixed tocopherols, ginger, selenium yeast, blueberries, carrots, apples, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, oranges, cranberries, spinach, beets, tart cherries, strawberries

Sundays makes 2 recipes and doesn’t use any added vitamins and minerals, which takes it to the top position on this list with a score of 7.5/10. Its recipes average 37% protein and 22% carbohydrates as calculated, placing it at #1 on this list. It also earns the #1 spot due to lighter processing than others on the list.

There are a couple of things to note that bring down the overall score. The carbs are higher than we’d like to see, although most are obtained from fruits and vegetables. These recipes include sunflower oil, which is an inflammatory seed oil. The recipes contain several  ingredients known for high pesticide or herbicide residues, including kale, apples, tomato and spinach. It would be good to see the company use organic ingredients to remove the pesticide concern. 

These are air-dried foods so there is some heat involved in processing, which causes a loss of some active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. But as there are no added vitamins and minerals, it means the ingredients are sufficient to meet nutritional standards..

Sundays uses wild-caught salmon which is more nutritious than farmed fish and has a better balance of omega fatty acids.

Overall, Sundays appears to be a company focused on whole food ingredients and nutrition in their dog food. We’d like to see them improve the quality of those ingredients to make this food even better.

Sundays For Dogs is a small, boutique brand, owned and operated by a veterinarian and her husband. The food was launched publicly in 2020 after a 2 year private beta phase. The recipes were created by owner Dr Tory Waxman and formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists. They are also reviewed by an animal nutrition PhD and a human food scientist. The food is manufactured at a USDA-monitored human-grade jerky kitchen in Ohio (where Sundays is headquartered). 

To date, Sundays has had no product recalls.

Benefits

  • No added vitamins or minerals
  • Light processing

Concerns

  • High carbohydrates
  • Seed oil
  • High pesticide ingredients
Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023

2. Nature’s Logic Canned Diet  

7.7/10

Ingredients For Canine Beef Feast Recipe: Beef, beef broth, beef liver, sardines, porcine plasma, montmorillonite clay, herring oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), eggshell meal, brewers dried yeast, dried apple, dried apricot, alfalfa meal, dried artichoke, dried blueberry, dried broccoli, dried carrot, dried chicory root, dried cranberry, dried kelp, dried parsley, dried pumpkin, dried rosemary, dried spinach, dried tomato, rosemary extract

We reviewed other lines of canned dog food with recipes that scored well. Unfortunately, all of those recipes had long lists of added vitamins and minerals … so they didn’t meet our criteria for Top Natural Dog Foods.  

Nature’s Logic Canned Diet has 9 recipes with an overall score of 7.7/10. In terms of ingredient quality, 4 recipes score 10/10 with the remaining recipes losing points for having higher carbohydrates. Overall, these recipes average 39% protein, which is lower than we’d expect to see in a canned dog food.

Average carbohydrate as calculated on a dry matter basis is 16%, which is a bit high for a premium canned, but the carbs come from alfalfa and fruits and vegetables, not high starch ingredients. 

Nature’s Logic makes these canned dog foods without any added vitamins and minerals. The company is committed to obtaining essential vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients in its foods from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other natural food ingredients. Fruits and vegetables add to the carbohydrate content, but it’s a small price to pay for whole food nutrition vs foods with synthetic supplements.

These are canned foods so they’re highly processed. For this reason we’ve placed them at #2 on the list despite a slightly better score than the #1 food. Processing causes a loss of some active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients, although Nature’s Logic includes plenty of whole food ingredients to ensure these dog foods are balanced with adequate nutrients.

A downfall is that these ingredients are not organic so many of them are known for high pesticide/herbicide residues that affects the ingredient safety store. Alfalfa meal in the recipes costs a point because alfalfa is a known GMO crop.  Organic ingredients would eliminate pesticide and GMO concerns. 

Nature’s Logic began as a small independent company founded in Lincoln Nebraska in 2006. It used several different co-manufacturers for its kibble, canned and raw lines. In 2017, Nature’s Logic owner Scott Freeman partnered with the investment firm, VisioCap. In 2021, the company was acquired by Mid America Pet Food, which manufactures Victor, Wayne Feeds and Eagle Mountain. MAPF manufactures its products in Mt. Pleasant, Texas and it’s assumed Nature’s Logic is currently manufactured in that plant. 

To date, Nature’s Logic has not been recalled, nor has the parent company Mid America Pet Food. 

Benefits

  • No added vitamins or minerals 
  • Low carbohydrates in most recipes

Concerns

  • Highly processed
  • High pesticide/herbicide foods  
  • One GMO ingredient
Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023

3. Carna4

7.3/10

Ingredient List For Easy-Chew Venison Formula Dry Dog Food Recipe: Venison, venison liver, eggs, ground organic sprouted barley seed, herring, perch, salmon, sweet potato, ground fava beans, ground organic sprouted flaxseed, ground organic sprouted lentils, ground organic sprouted peas, potato starch, apples, carrots, sea salt, kelp, baking soda

Carna4 is a line of baked, air-dried foods with 6 recipes that don’t contain any added vitamins, minerals or amino acids. This indicates higher quality ingredients and moderate processing. These recipes have average protein of 28% and average carbohydrates of 35% as calculated, and acceptable fat levels resulting in a score of 7.3/10.

Carbohydrate content is fairly high and costs the food some ingredient quality points. The carbohydrate source for Carna4 comes from organic sprouted barley seed. While barley is a high pesticide crop, the barley is sprouted and organic so it will not be spray-dried with Roundup like most barley crops are. Sprouted grains are also more digestible for dogs and arguably a higher quality ingredient. 

These are air-dried recipes so moderate processing causes a slight drop in score. Not all ingredients are organic, and ingredients include potatoes which are classified as a genetically modified crop with high pesticide/herbicide residues. Apples are also a high-pesticide ingredient. Both of these foods are further down the ingredient list and there are no genetically modified or high-pesticide foods in the top 5 ingredients.

Carna4 is a small, boutique brand manufactured in Canada. The food has the appearance of kibble, but it’s not extruded and it’s described as quick-baked for 4 minutes at 195F, then air-dried. The food is made in an EU-certified family-run bakery called Bio Biscuit in Quebec, Canada. 

To date, Carna4 has had no product recalls.

Benefits

  • No added vitamins or minerals
  • Moderate processing

Concerns

  • High carbohydrates
  • GMO ingredient
  • High pesticide ingredients
Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023

4. Nature’s Logic Distinction Grain-Free Dry 

7.3/10

Nature’s Logic® Distinction™ Grain-Free Canine Fowl Recipe: Chicken (source of methionine-cystine), chicken meal, tapioca root, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), turkey meal, duck meal, spray dried chicken liver, pumpkin seed, yeast culture, spray dried porcine plasma, dried egg product, dried kale, montmorillonite clay, dried kelp, pollock meal (source of taurine), dried tomato, dried chicory root, dried apple, dried carrot, dried pumpkin, dried blueberry, dried apricot, dried spinach, dried broccoli, dried parsley, dried cranberry, dried artichoke, dried mushroom, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried bifidobacterium bifidum fermentation product, dried enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, dried pineapple extract, dried aspergillus niger fermentation extract, dried aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract, dried trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract

Nature’s Logic manufactures the only ultra-processed kibbles we know of that are free of added vitamins and mineralsThat puts Distinction Grain-Free Dry on this list of Top Natural Dog Foods. 

These 3 recipes average 32% protein and 29% carbohydrate, and have acceptable fat of 15% for a score of 7.3/10. It should be noted that Nature’s Logic Distinction Grain-Free is our highest ranking kibble from our earlier list of Best Dry Dog Foods for 2023.

The food is higher in carbohydrate than we would like to see, but still lower than many comparable kibbles. The carbohydrate source is tapioca root, which is not a crop known for high-pesticide or herbicide residues. Like all Nature’s Logic foods, this line sports whole food nutrition with no added vitamins or minerals to earn its placement on this list for Top Natural Dog Foods.

Distinction Grain-Free is a kibble and is ultra-processed. It’s also worth noting that it contains meal as its second ingredient, which is another ultra-processed ingredient. But for pet owners who prefer kibble, Nature’s Logic is at the top of our list.

Apart from the processing, the food safety score is impacted by the inclusion of ingredients known for high pesticide or herbicide residues like kale, tomato, apple and spinach, but they appear further down the label and are not in the top 5 ingredients.

Nature’s Logic started as a small company in Lincoln, Nebraska and was acquired in 2021 by Mid America Pet Food, which manufactures Victor, Wayne Feeds and Eagle Mountain. MAPF manufactures its product in Mt. Pleasant, Texas and it’s assumed Nature’s Logic is currently manufactured in that plant.

To date, Nature’s Logic has not been recalled, nor has the parent company Mid America Pet Food. 

Benefits

  • No added vitamins or minerals

Concerns

  • Contains high pesticide ingredients
  • Ultra processed
  • High carbohydrates
Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023

5. Nature’s Logic Original Grain-Free Dry 

7.3/10

Nature’s Logic Grain-Free Canine Chicken Meal Feast Recipe: Chicken meal (source of methionine-cystine), tapioca root, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), menhaden fish meal (source of taurine), spray dried chicken liver, pumpkin seed, yeast culture, dried egg product, montmorillonite clay, dried kale, dried kelp, spray dried porcine plasma, dried tomato, dried chicory root, dried apple, dried carrot, dried pumpkin, dried blueberry, dried apricot, dried spinach, dried broccoli, dried parsley, dried cranberry, dried artichoke, dried mushrooms, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried bifidobacterium bifidum fermentation product, dried enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, dried pineapple extract, dried aspergillus niger fermentation extract, dried aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract, dried trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract

This line is similar to Nature’s Logic Distinction Grain-Free but is a little higher in carbohydrate to place it in this position on the list. There are 2 recipes that average 35% protein and 30% carbohydrate, and have acceptable fat of 15%, for a score of 7.3/10.

These recipes have high carbohydrate content but the source is tapioca root, which is not a rop known for high pesticide or herbicide residues. These recipes contain no added vitamins or minerals, which keeps the ingredient quality score quite high. However, it should also be noted that it is formulated using feeding trials and not formulated to meet AAFCO minimum requirements.

When it comes to ingredient safety, this is a kibble so it’s an ultra-processed food. Extruded foods are heated four separate times during production, which will cause major losses in some active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients so the food does lose some safety points here.

There are also some ingredients known for high pesticide or herbicide residues (kale, tomato, apple and spinach), but they appear further down the label and are not in the top 5 ingredients.

Benefits

  • No added vitamins or minerals

Concerns

  • Ultra processed
  • High carbohydrates
  • Contains high pesticide ingredients
Top Natural Dog Foods For 2023

6. Farmina Ocean Dry 

6.3/10

Ingredient List For Farmina N&D Ocean Salmon, Cod & Cantaloupe Melon Adult Mini Dry Dog Food Recipe: Salmon, dehydrated salmon, sweet potato, cod, dehydrated cod, herring oil, dehydrated herring protein, pea fibre, dried carrot, alfalfa meal, inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, yeast extract (source of manno-oligo-saccharides), dried cantaloupe melon, dried blueberry, dried apple, dried spinach, psyllium husks and seeds, dried pomegranate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, dried brewers’ yeast, turmeric, aloe vera extract, glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate.

Farmina offers 11 recipes in this line of kibble but only 4 recipes don’t include added vitamins and minerals.

The 4 recipes without added vitamins and minerals are: Farmina N&D Ocean Salmon, Cod & Cantaloupe Melon in 3 different sizes, for “Mini,” “Medium & Maxi” and “Maxi Giant”,plus Farmina N&D Cod, Pumpkin & Orange Adult Mini Dry Dog Food

On the ingredient quality side, these 4 recipes have average protein of 30% with 32% carbohydrates as calculated, and 18% fat. These foods are lower in protein and higher in carbs than we’d like but there are no synthetic nutrients (although they do add glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which are likely synthetic). These recipes contain sweet potatoes which are a starch and contribute to the higher carbohydrate levels. 

Farmina Ocean Dry is a kibble so it’s ultra-processed. Extruded foods are heated four separate times during production, which will cause major losses in some active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients so the food does lose some ingredient safety points here.

Apart from the processing, the ingredient safety score is significantly impacted by the inclusion of peas, apples and spinach which are ingredients known for high pesticide or herbicide residues. However they appear further down the label and are not in the top 5 ingredients. These recipes also include alfalfa which is a known GMO ingredient. Organic ingredients would significantly boost the ingredient safety score of these recipes. 

Farmina Pet Foods began in 1965 as Russo Mangimi, a family company in Naples, Italy, that specialized in animal nutrition. The company has its headquarters in Italy and operates manufacturing facilities in Italy, Brazil and Serbia. In 2021, Farmina added a location in Reidsville, NC that includes manufacturing, research and development, and warehousing operations.

To date, Farmina has not had any recalls or voluntary withdrawals in the United States or Europe.

Benefits

  • No added vitamins or minerals

Concerns

  • Ultra-processed
  • High carbohydrates
  • High pesticide ingredients
  • GMO ingredients

Other “Natural” Dog Foods

There are many companies and foods that use “natural” in the name but didn’t make this list of Top Natural Dog Foods. Here are a few examples. 

Northwest Naturals and K9 Naturals both make high scoring raw, canned and freeze-dried foods. They include a limited number of synthetic minerals, but far from the standard premix we see in other brands. 

Darwin’s offers Natural Selections, a line of raw foods that include trace minerals such as zinc, copper, iron and manganese they say are added in proteinate form from natural sources for better bioavailability.

New Zealand Natural Pet Food Company makes a line of air-dried dog food. It has 60% protein, low fat, 8% carbohydrate as calculated. It’s has a few added vitamins and minerals so it didn’t meet our criteria for this list of Top Natural Dog Foods. 

Only Natural Pet produces 4 lines of pet foods: ultra processed kibble, highly processed canned, moderately processed dehydrated and cold pressed. There are 15 kibble recipes that score under 5/10 with average protein of 37% and average carbohydrates of 26% as calculated. Each recipe is high in carbohydrates. All but 1 recipe contains a lengthy list of added vitamins and minerals, grains including many that are high pesticide crops, GMO ingredients like alfalfa, plus natural flavor, seed oils and plant protein. We’d expect the other lines with less processing and a nice collection of dehydrated fruit and vegetables to fare better but they have high carbohydrates and also rely on extensive lists of vitamins and minerals to meet nutritional requirements. Even the canned is higher in carbs than we like to see. 

Natural Balance scores range from 1.5 to 3.8 for its lines of food that include 4 types of kibble, and 3 canned varieties. The worst offender is the limited ingredient diet with 5 whole food ingredients followed by as many as 38 additional ingredients and vitamins and minerals. The other foods include similar lengthy lists of additives. Other ingredients of concern include high levels of carbohydrates, high pesticide ingredients, seed oils, GMOs, natural flavor and plant protein. The vegetarian food is based on rice, grain and potatoes. You don’t see non-starch vegetables until the end of the list, after the extensive list of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, where they’re included in minimal amounts that don’t provide any nutritional benefit. There are 2 freeze-dried foods with a minimal amount of added minerals but they’re higher in carbohydrates than most freeze dried foods. 

Instinct’s Be Natural brand has a score of 3.5/10. A lengthy list of vitamins and minerals figure prominently in these 5 recipes, along with high carbohydrates, high pesticide ingredients, rice, GMOs like alfalfa, plus highly processed seed oils and natural flavor … things we don’t expect to feature in “natural” dog foods. Instinct does offer better scoring lines of raw frozen and freeze-dried foods that have higher quality ingredients and minimal added minerals.

Diamond Naturals produces Naturals Dry, Natural Grain Free Dry which scored 3.8/10 and 2.7/10, and Naturals Canned with a score of 6.3/10. Naturals Dry and Natural Canned include grains in the top 5 ingredients leading to high carbohydrate levels. Fruits and vegetables are lower on the list where they’re included in minimal amounts that don’t provide any nutritional benefit, alongside an extensive list of vitamins and minerals. Diamond Natural Grain Free doesn’t have grains but it does have sweet potatoes and lentils in its top 5 ingredients to maintain a high carb level, with added vitamins, minerals and amino acids filling in the ingredient list. Each of these lines also include high pesticide ingredients, rice, GMOs and seed oils … things that are common in these “natural” dog foods. 

So, these foods are natural in name … but not according to our criteria.

As you’ve seen from this list of Top Natural Dog Foods, there are very few manufactured dog foods that derive their nutrients from whole food ingredients without added vitamins and minerals. And the ones that call themselves “natural” often don’t meet that description. 

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