Collagen vs. Beef Protein: What To Know

Collagen vs. Beef Protein: What To Know

Beef protein and bovine collagen are both derived from cows but they differ in composition, structure, and function. Health-conscious brands must understand the differences between proteins and how to use their unique properties when formulating products in order to meet rising demand for collagen and quality protein sources. This blog post will discuss the differences between bovine collagen and beef protein, some of the compliance issues surrounding it, and what this means for you and your brand.

What is the Difference Between Bovine Collagen and Beef Protein?

Collagen is a protein that makes up a significant component of animal connective tissues. It is the principal structural protein in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments, providing these tissues with strength and support. Collagen is a complex protein made up of amino acids, the most common of which are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

On the other hand, beef protein is a form of protein that, as the name suggests, is obtained from beef cattle. It is a complete protein, meaning it has every necessary amino acid the body needs. Popular supplements for muscle growth and rehabilitation include beef protein as an ingredient. 

Despite coming from the same animal, both collagen and beef protein have unique qualities and applications. While beef protein is frequently used as a source of protein for athletes and bodybuilders, collagen is frequently used in cosmetics and general health supplements. Collagen is a type of protein that the body disassembles into its individual amino acids. Conversely, beef protein is a complete protein that the body needs right away for muscle building and repair.  Thus, it makes sense why they have different use cases and applications. 

Does the FDA Consider Both Collagen and Beef to be “Real Proteins”?

Protein quality differs for collagen and beef protein based on PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Adjusted Amino Acid Score). The PDCAAS is a method for determining protein quality based on amino acid concentration and digestibility. It is the most extensively used method for determining protein quality, and the FDA uses it to analyze and label food products. 

PDCAAS ranges from 0 to 1, where 1 represents the highest quality protein. Collagen has a PDCAAS score of 0, indicating that it is not a complete protein because it is missing some essential amino acids. In contrast, beef protein has a PDCAAS score of 1, indicating that it is a complete protein that contains the correct amounts of all essential amino acids.

The FDA governs how food products are labeled in terms of protein amount and quality. A food product can be labeled as a "good source of protein" or a "high protein" product if it includes a large amount of protein and meets certain protein quality requirements. To use these claims, the product must meet the FDA's standards for a PDCAAS-defined amino acid profile.

Is There a Risk to Companies that Do Not Label Their Bovine-derived Proteins Correctly?

Yes, there have been several lawsuits filed against companies that have made protein claims for collagen-containing products. In 2019, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Vital Proteins, a popular collagen supplement brand, which stated that the company's products did not contain the amount of protein alleged on the label.

According to the lawsuit, Vital Proteins made false claims about the protein content of its products, professing that they contained "20 grams of collagen protein," when in fact the collagen contained only a small amount of protein based on its amino acid profile. The lawsuit further alleged that the company's use of the term "collagen protein" was misleading because collagen is not a complete protein. For this same reason, the FDA sent warning letters to other companies who were making similar claims. For example, the FDA sent a warning letter to the makers of Moon Juice, a line of dietary supplements containing collagen powder, in 2018. In their letter, the FDA said the company's claims about the product's protein content were not supported by scientific evidence and that the brand of the product is fake. 

What Does This Mean For Me and My CPG Snack Brand? 

Companies making protein claims for collagen-containing products should be careful to verify the accuracy and scientific evidence behind these claims, as collagen-focused products and quality protein sources continue to fly off the shelves. Consumers can file a lawsuit if they believe a product's protein claims are false or misleading, and the FDA has taken action against companies that make false or misleading claims about the protein content of their products.

Make sure to take preventative measures during your R&D and recipe formulation stages to ensure your product claims are true. If possible, work with a healthy snack co-manufacturer and co-packer, like YouBar, to help you source ingredients and create a formula that not only meets your nutritional specifications but also the FDA regulatory requirements. In addition, a co-manufacturer will run all the tests necessary and provide hands-on advice for everything from nutrition panel labeling to accurate health and nutritional claims.

How Can I Use Collagen or Beef Protein in my Custom Formulation?

Due to their neutral flavor profiles, these proteins can easily be added to most snacks and bars without affecting the taste. This versatility allows for their seamless integration into a wide variety of healthy snacks, such as protein bars, energy bites, and even smoothie boosters. For those who follow a plant-based or vegan diet, they can also consider alternative sources of collagen and protein, such as collagen boosters and plant-derived proteins, to enhance their diets while offering similar benefits.

Bovine collagen and beef protein pair well with a variety of ingredients, making them fantastic additions to any healthy snack formulation. Some ingredients that complement their properties include:

  • Nootropics: Enhance cognitive function by combining bovine collagen or beef protein with ingredients like L-theanine, Rhodiola Rosea, or Bacopa Monnieri.
  • Adaptogens: Support stress relief and overall wellness by adding adaptogens such as ashwagandha, Maca root, or ginseng to snacks containing bovine collagen or beef protein.
  • Superfoods: Amplify the health benefits of the final product by pairing collagen and protein with nutrient-dense ingredients like spirulina, chlorella, or kale.
  • Avocado oil: Incorporate healthy fats and improve texture by adding avocado oil to bovine collagen or beef protein-based snacks.
  • Mushrooms: Enhance the nutritional profile and flavor of collagen and protein snacks with medicinal mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane, or cordyceps.

Key Takeaways

Bovine collagen and protein have completely different compositions, structures, and activities despite the fact that they are both sourced from cows. Brands should therefore be aware of these distinctions before including either of them in recipes. An expert protein co-manufacturer, like YouBar, is familiar with using both collagen and protein in their products and will be able to help you determine which "protein" will serve your needs and be the best for your products. We have the tools to help you develop and sell innovative protein snacks packed with the hottest ingredients. To find out more, contact us.