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Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing a Food

With Instinct, you can expect quality nutrition in every recipe – our #1 priority is enabling pet parents to transform the lives of pets through better nutrition. And we believe that raw provides transformative benefits. We prioritize real, whole-food ingredients with no fillers and nothing artificial. We have a variety of options across many food forms, and many options tailored specifically to your dog or cat’s life stage.

For an overview of all food types, visit the For Dogs or For Cats pages or try out our Product Recommender to find the perfect recipe for your pet.

Check Out Our Product Recommender

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) published a nutrition toolkit in 2011. It was designed to help veterinarians and pet owners discuss feeding pets. The Recommendations on Selecting Pet Foods contains of list of 8 questions that should be asked of a manufacturer to help decide if the food they make is of a quality that can be trusted with a pet’s health and well-being. At Instinct, we are proud to meet the standards set in the WSAVA Guidelines.

PDF copy of WSAVA Guidelines

RAW 101

Raw is the pinnacle of pet nutrition. Instinct’s raw recipes are made with real ingredients you can recognize, minimally processed, and never cooked to preserve the integrity of every ingredient. Raw is more nutrient-dense and nutritionally complex than cooked pet food because beneficial nutrients and phytonutrients are lost in the cooking process. We protect those nutrients by never cooking our raw recipes so our pets can experience the transformative benefits of raw.

We’ve been crafting and perfecting our raw recipes for 20 years and we’re on a mission to put more raw in more bowls to transform the lives of pets. We provide a range of raw options to meet the needs of every pet, from our 100% raw frozen and freeze-dried recipes to freeze-dried raw toppers to kibble recipes boosted with raw nutrition.

Read more about the science-backed, life enhancing benefits of raw here.

We have always been dedicated to providing complete and balanced recipes that maximize our pets’ wellbeing and are safe for both pets and pet parents. We use High Pressure Processing (also known as HPP or Cold Pressure) on all of our frozen and freeze-dried raw recipes to ensure they are free from pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria. This is the same process used for human foods like cold-pressed juices and guacamole. We also extensively test every batch for safety before it leaves our facilities.

In addition, our company-owned raw manufacturing facilities earned Safe Quality Food’s (SQF) highest level of certification: an “Excellent” Food Safety rating and certification in Quality – our raw food is crafted with extreme care! Please reach out if you have any questions.

We always recommend that pets gradually transition to any new food. Adjustment is key because dogs eat the same food day in and day out, so a rapid, full diet change would be more likely to upset their system. During the first week, mix raw with your dog’s existing food, increasing the amount of raw each day. Depending on your pet, you may need more or less time to transition.

When transitioning, your pup may temporarily have loose stools or digestive upset. Also, since frozen raw is so different from kibble, the texture and temperature change may take a little getting used to. This is all normal and expected, but if you have any questions, feel free to check in with our Consumer Engagement team!

Although they look similar, our raw food has safety and nutritional differences that set it apart from raw meat you’d find in a grocery store. Our raw frozen and freeze-dried recipes offer complete and balanced nutrition for dogs and cats that meets AAFCO guidelines. It’s quite a challenge to make complete and balanced raw diets at home; Instinct Raw meets the needs of raw feeders looking for raw nutrition without the added step of calculating what makes a balanced diet for their pet. We also use High Pressure Processing to ensure our raw recipes are free of pathogenic bacteria and safe for pets and pet parents. As an extra safety step, we test every batch before it leaves our facilities.

Also, Instinct is the ONLY raw pet food company in North America to achieve an “Excellent” Safe Quality Food (SQF) Food Safety rating and an SQF Quality Certification.

Add raw as often as you’d like! You don’t have to feed a full raw diet to reap the raw benefits. In fact, studies show that adding as little as 20% raw can reduce the risk of skin allergies.

Many pet parents rotate between raw and a kibble-based food, or top their pet’s kibble with either frozen or freeze-dried raw. Just remember to be cautious of overfeeding if you are topping a pet’s existing meal with raw.

Our frozen raw meals and freeze-dried raw meals offer complete and balanced nutrition, following the AAFCO dog and cat food nutrient profiles. They provide all the nutrition your pet needs, so it’s not necessary to supplement their diet with other foods or vitamins.

Important note: Please review the Complete & Balanced statement for whatever Instinct product you’re hoping to feed to ensure it’s balanced for your pet’s life stage.

Outside of our complete & balanced raw meal options, we do have 100% raw toppers; these are intended for supplemental feeding and are not a complete & balanced meal on their own.

We suggest no longer than 24 hours.

Handle our frozen raw in the same manner that you’d handle raw meat; wash hands, working surfaces, utensils, bowls and any other items that come in contact with frozen raw with hot, soapy water. Feeding tip: A tried-and-true approach is prepping your pet’s next meal and putting it in the fridge while you are feeding them! Then, you’ll always have their next meal thawed and ready to go.

Thawing:

  • Raw Bites take 5-15 minutes to thaw at room temperature. Many pet parents simply pour their pet’s portion and let it sit on the counter for a bit before feeding – although some pets like it straight from the freezer.
  • Raw Patties take ~4-6 hours to thaw in the fridge.

If your pet doesn’t consume all the frozen raw food presented within 30 minutes, discard any leftovers.

If you feed Instinct Raw Freeze-Dried Meals, store and serve it as you would with any dry pet food (such as kibble). If you choose to rehydrate the food, discard leftovers within two hours. If you don’t rehydrate the food, leftovers can be left out for the day.

Read more on our Start Feeding Raw page.

Ingredients and Nutrition

We have a dedicated team of experts in their fields crafting and making our raw recipes—from food scientists to quality control engineers—bringing decades of experience in pet food. This team includes a DVM, DACVN, who is also is a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist – certifications held by less than 100 people in the US!

Our nutritional philosophy is to source the highest quality, safest, and most nutritious ingredients possible. We look for our ingredients domestically first, but sometimes turn to other locations when their ingredients are truly the better choice. For example, we started sourcing lamb from New Zealand because grass-fed lamb raised outside in large pastures is more abundant there.

We are very stringent about our sourcing and have good relationships built with our vendors for quality ingredients. If you have specific questions regarding sourcing, please email cservice@instinctpetfood.com and we would be happy to tell you more.

All Instinct recipes are made in the U.S.A. using the finest ingredients from around the world. Our frozen and freeze-dried raw recipes are made in our company-owned facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our Lincoln facilities earned Safe Quality Food’s (SQF) highest level of certification: an “Excellent” Food Safety rating and certification in Quality – we are the ONLY raw pet food country in the US to earn this high level of achievement.Our kibble and wet recipes are made in Kansas.

All Instinct recipes are preserved naturally. Our raw recipes are preserved by freezing, a proven preservation method, and a vitamin E supplement. Our freeze-dried raw meals and kibble is preserved with a mixture of tocopherols (vitamin E), rosemary, and citric acid.  For wet food, the canning process keeps these recipes preserved naturally.

Unfortunately our recipes cannot be classified by the USDA’s definition of human grade because our facilities are used to produce pet food rather than human food. That being said, all of our ingredients come from USDA-inspected facilities (or meet USDA requirements in the case of imports) and are from animals that have passed ante and post-mortem inspection.

Our raw recipes are made with non-GMO fruits and vegetables. That being said, our recipes cannot be classified as fully organic. To labeled as such, even the foods our proteins are fed must be certified organic, and we cannot 100% confirm each animal’s diet given the slight variances among suppliers.

Storage and Shelf Life

Our frozen raw meals are to be kept frozen until close to mealtime. If you feed raw bites, keep them frozen until 5-15 minutes before your pet’s mealtime since they thaw in minutes. Raw Patties thaw in 4-6 hours (or overnight). If your pet doesn’t consume all the food presented within 30 minutes, discard any leftovers.

The shelf life of an unopened bag of frozen raw is up to one year in the freezer, keeping in mind to not exceed the printed expiration date.

Read more on our Start Feeding Raw page.

Yes! Our freeze-dried Freeze-Dried Raw Meals and freeze-dried toppers are shelf-stable because we’ve removed the moisture.

Unopened freeze-dried food has a shelf life of two years, keeping in mind not to exceed the printed expiration date. Once opened, the food is fresh for up to 30 days as long as it’s resealed between feedings.

An unopened bag of kibble is good for up to 18 months, keeping in mind not to exceed the printed expiration date. After opening, our kibble will stay fresh for about 2-3 months as long as it’s resealed between feedings.

Safety and Quality

We have the certifications, procedures, and experience to prove it! Our company-owned manufacturing facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska hold unique certifications that demonstrate our deep commitment to food safety and quality. We also take safety steps during our raw pet food manufacturing process than not all raw pet food brands do.

Instinct is the ONLY raw pet food company in North America to achieve an “Excellent” Safe Quality Food (SQF) Food Safety rating and an SQF Quality certification. SQF is a rigorous and credible food safety and quality auditing program that is recognized by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers world-wide. SQF certification is NOT a requirement in the pet food industry. Instinct went the extra mile to earn SQF Food Safety and Quality certifications and instill an even higher degree of trust in our raw recipes and procedures.

Learn more about our SQF certification here.

Besides meeting the high standards required for SQF certification, we uphold the strict standards set by the FDA FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act). FSMA compliance shows that our food is manufactured with the same food safety standards as human food. At Instinct, we also use High Pressure Processing (HPP) to ensure our raw recipes are free of pathogens and safe for pets and pet parents, while retaining maximum nutrients (a primary benefit of raw food). Probiotics are also added to our raw chicken recipes prior to HPP as an extra layer of safety against Salmonella. In addition, all Instinct raw food is tested by an external, ISO 17025 certified lab prior to it leaving their facilities.

We want every pet parent—and every pet—to be happy! Every Instinct recipe comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are unhappy with the food you purchased for any reason, simply return or exchange it with the original store receipt.

We have always been dedicated to providing complete and balanced recipes that maximize our pets’ wellbeing and are safe for both pets and pet parents. We use High Pressure Processing (also known as HPP or Cold Pressure) on all of our frozen and freeze-dried raw recipes to ensure they are free from pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria. This is the same process used for human foods like cold-pressed juices and guacamole. We also extensively test every batch for safety before it leaves our facilities.

In addition, our company-owned raw manufacturing facilities earned Safe Quality Food’s (SQF) highest level of certification: an “Excellent” Food Safety rating and certification in Quality – our raw food is crafted with extreme care! Please reach out if you have any questions.

Since our products are natural, some color or texture variation from batch-to-batch is normal.

Yes, all of our cans are BPA-free!

Our cans are recyclable as well as our Raw Longevity frozen product packaging. We hope to expand to more recyclable packaging in the future! To recycle our Raw Longevity frozen bags, simply drop off the cleaned package at a store that accepts plastic bag/wrap drop-offs. These are the bins you often see at grocery stores or big box stores.

No, pet parents should not be concerned! We are confident in the safety and quality of our recipes. Please see below for some background on the FDA report as well as how Instinct is committed to ensuring safe food for pets everywhere.

DCM in the News
In 2018, the FDA issued a report on dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart disease in dogs. This report raised questions about this condition in dogs and cats and any relationship to specific ingredients or certain foods. As of September 2021, over 1100 cases have been reported to the FDA. DCM has been recognized in dogs for a very long time, but this particular series of cases is unique in that the breeds of dogs involved are not typical, and that many of these dogs improve or even have full reversal of the disease when the diet is changed. Researchers are actively examining the issue, now called “non-hereditary DCM”, and have not yet found the conclusive link to canine or feline diets. As of September 2021, several epidemiologic and prospective studies have been conducted in an attempt to find the cause. At this point, the research seems to show that taurine is not the primary problem in the diets, but may play a secondary role in dogs with DCM. Other possibilities being examined are the role of fiber content, complex nutrient interactions, or even some unidentified toxin. The results of these studies suggest that DCM is a complex disease that may occur from interactions between the genetic make-up of the dog and certain nutrients in pet foods.

But, as pet parents and pet lovers ourselves, we at Instinct (formerly known as Nature’s Variety) take this issue very seriously. We are doing what we can to help determine if there is a link between diet and DCM, and how we can be part of providing a solution that helps all our pets have long, happy, and healthy lives. Following the FDA’s initial report, we expanded our already robust food testing protocol and funded a research grant to further the DCM investigation to lead to more conclusive results.

Our Nutrition Expertise and Focus on Safety & Quality
For 20 years, we have fed hundreds of thousands of pets with safe, healthy, and high-quality recipes. We are pet food experts committed to quality and safety. Our team of pet nutrition experts has advanced degrees, including a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist, Ph.Ds in Food Science and Quality Control, and other experts who are part of our research and development team. Together, this experienced team guides how we formulate, source, manufacture and test our products to ensure the safety, nutritional value, and digestibility of every recipe we sell. All our recipes undergo vigorous formulation, manufacturing and testing processes to help ensure their safety, efficacy, and compliance with all AAFCO nutrient requirements. Our Lincoln, NE facilities also earned SQF’s highest level of certification: an “Excellent” Food Safety rating and certification in Quality. All our recipes are tested multiple times annually at a 3rd party world-renowned laboratory. In response to the FDA’s investigation last year, we started to analyze all our foods for total dietary fiber, total starch, cysteine, methionine, and taurine in addition to the normal protein, fat, moisture, and crude fiber analyses. We also completed digestibility studies on our diets with positive results.

Committed to Transparency
We have always placed a high priority on being open and transparent. Should you have questions, our Customer Service team is available at 1-888-519-7387, via live chat or email. While there is uncertainty about the cause of DCM, we will do our best to help by communicating the latest research on this condition. We will keep you informed of any additional information on this topic as it becomes available to us. Should you have additional questions, we encourage you to talk directly with your veterinarian.

Since our raw recipes are natural, some color variation from batch-to-batch is normal. There can be a range from pink to brownish, which can also be impacted by how quickly the food was frozen, the freezer temperature or even the source protein. As long as the food isn’t stuck together and it smells normal, it should be perfectly safe to feed.

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