Julia Ogden

Written by Julia Ogden

Georgia Jeremiah

Reviewed by Georgia Jeremiah

Updated: January 18, 2024

Natural Balance Original Ultra Dry Cat Food Review

Updated: January 18, 2024

Our Verdict

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Recommended

Natural Balance Original Ultra dry cat food range receives the Cat Food Advisor rating: 4.5 stars.

Formulated for all breeds and life stages from growing kittens to adult cats, this food offers an optimal balance of premium proteins and key nutrients.

Pros
  • Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Added taurine
  • Grain-free
  • Quality protein ingredients
Cons
  • Expensive

Each recipe includes its AAFCO nutrient profile: Growth (kitten), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

The Natural Balance Original Ultra product line contains two dry cat foods.

Product line Rating AAFCO
Chicken Meal & Salmon Meal Recipe 4.5 A
Cat & Kitten Grain-Free Chicken & Herring Recipe 4.5 M

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Recipe and Label Analysis

Natural Balance Original Ultra Chicken Meal & Salmon Meal Recipe was selected for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.Natural Balance Original Ultra Chicken Meal & Salmon Meal Recipe

Label and nutrient data below are calculated using dry matter basis.

Natural Balance Original Ultra Chicken Meal & Salmon Meal Recipe

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

37.8%

Protein

18.7%

Fat

35.6%

CarbsCarbohydrates

Chicken meal, brown rice, chicken, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), brewers dried yeast, oat groats, chicken liver, salmon meal, natural flavor, menhaden fish oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried vegetable broth, pea fiber, oat fiber, choline chloride, salt, DL-methionine, potassium chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid, niacin supplement, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, iron proteinate, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, manganese sulfate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, l-tryptophan, cranberries, citric acid (preservative), mixed tocopherols (preservative), blueberries, dried kelp, yucca schidigera extract, L-lysine monohydrochloride, rosemary extract


Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3%

Red denotes any controversial items

Ingredients Analysis

The first ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The second ingredient is brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a cat.

The third ingredient is chicken. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”. 1 

Chicken is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

The fourth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid. Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The fifth ingredient is brewers dried yeast, which can be a controversial item. Although it’s a by-product of the beer-making process, this ingredient is rich in minerals and other healthy nutrients. 

Fans believe yeast repels fleas and supports the immune system.

Critics argue yeast ingredients can be linked to allergies. This may be true, but (like all allergies) only if your particular cat is allergic to the yeast itself. 

In any case, unless your cat is specifically allergic to it, yeast can still be considered a nutritious additive.

What’s more noteworthy here is that brewers yeast contains about 48% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this cat food.

The sixth ingredient is carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The sixth ingredient is oat groats, a whole grain, minimally processed form of oats. With the exception of their caloric content and the fact they’re also gluten free, oat groats can be considered average in nutritional value.

The seventh ingredient is chicken liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

From here the list goes on to include a number of other items. But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of the product.

However, this recipe contains sodium selenite, a controversial form of the mineral selenium, sodium selenite appears to be nutritionally inferior to the more natural source of selenium found in selenium yeast.

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Nutrient Analysis

Based on its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Original Ultra Dry Chicken Meal & Salmon Meal recipe looks like an above-average dry product.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 37.8%, a fat level of 18.7% and an estimated carbohydrate level of 35.6%.

As a group, the brand features an average-protein content of 37.2% and a mean fat level of 17.7%. Together these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 37.1% for the overall product line, alongside a fat-to-protein ratio of 47%.

This means the Natural Balance Original Ultra Dry product line contains near-average protein, above-average carbs and above-average fat when compared to typical dry cat food.

Final Word

Natural Balance Original Ultra dry cat food provides complete and balanced nutrition for cats or kittens. Like many other Natural Balance products it is grain-free and free from artificial colors and flavors.

Has Natural Balance cat food been recalled in the past?

Yes, there have been three recorded recalls for Natural Balance. For full details, please visit the Dog Food Advisor, but in summary:

In April 2007 the company informed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of complaints it had received about its Venison & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food and Venison & Green Pea Dry Cat Food. 

According to these complaints, some pets had experienced vomiting and kidney failure after consuming these products.

The company immediately issued a voluntary recall of all the affected products, and following laboratory tests, it was determined that some of them contained trace amounts of melamine, which is thought to have come from rice concentrate. 

Later that month, Natural Balance issued a second limited recall for four canned pet foods that were found to contain traces of melamine in rice protein concentrates.

In July 2007, the company recalled a small batch of canned pet food that it feared may have been contaminated in a large-scale botulism outbreak associated with one of its producers, Castleberry’s Food Company. 

In response to ongoing concerns following these recalls, Natural Balance built its own ISO-17025 accredited laboratory and commenced proactively testing every production run of the entire pet food range for nine different toxins before shipping their products to retailers.

On July 3, 2020, Natural Balance’s parent company, J.M. Smucker, issued a voluntary recall on a single batch of Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken & Chicken Liver Pâté Formula, after receiving complaints that several cats had become unwell after eating it. 

Subsequent tests revealed that the batch contained elevated levels of choline chloride.

You can view a complete list of all cat food recalls since 2021 here.

To stay on top of any cat food product recalls, sign up for our free email alerts, here.

About

Natural Balance Pet Foods was formed in 1989, and was picked up by Petco and sold in 625 stores across the United States. In May 2013, Natural Balance merged with Del Monte Foods and was then sold again in 2015 to J.M Smucker Company.

Natural Balance headquarters are in Pacoima, Los Angeles, California. Its products are produced at a variety of manufacturers across the United States from ingredients sourced from the United States, France, India, New Zealand, and Canada.

Sources

1: Association of American Feed Control Officials

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Every piece of clinical content on the Cat Food Advisor is reviewed by our certified Veterinary Advisory Board, which consists of licensed veterinarians and medically certified specialists.

Our reviews are completely independent; we are not paid by any pet food company to promote their products favorably. We do not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration. For more information see our Disclaimer & Disclosure page.

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