Wondering what is the best bone broth? If chicken or beef bone broth is better for you? Want to know about the nutritional differences? I’ll dive into all of that below.
Today I can safely say that bone broth is here to stay. It may not replace your coffee or tea, but it provides a perfect complement to your existing warm beverage habits.
I’m a huge coffee fan, but I also enjoy a warm mug of bone broth. I'm going to guess that you might be in a similar situation to me.
This begs the question: is one type is the best bone broth?
Beef and chicken are certainly the most common types of bone broth. They do share some similarities but have many differences.
They have different tastes, nutrition profiles, cooking techniques and uses for each. Chicken has more ascetic benefits while beef is better for gut health and mood.
To start let’s get a few of the basics out of the way.
Beef and chicken ingredients and sourcing
Chicken bone broth is a bit easier to make for two reasons. First, the bones are not as dense. And second, the bones are easier to come by since more people consume chicken in Canada and the United States than beef.
You can also use more readily available parts of the chicken for broth and soup, these include chicken wings, drumsticks, feet, necks and carcasses. Eating nose to tail makes it easy to find chicken bones.
Beef bones are thicker and thus take longer to prepare and cook. Beef bones are sometimes more difficult to track down.
But they are readily available from most specialty grocery stores and butcher shops. However, they are becoming more expensive to buy.
For beef bones, I’d recommend a mix of marrow and knuckle bones. For specifics on bones, read about common mistakes experts make while cooking bone broth.
Beef bone broth is better for gut health
Why? An amino acid called glycine. Beef broth has more glycine than chicken because it is made up primarily of type III collagen. Think of glycine as your gut’s personal assistant.
Glycine fights inflammation in your gut by laying down new connective tissue. This tissue protects the mucosal layer in your stomach, small intestine and GI tract, making you more resilient to inflammatory foods. Read our primer on why glycine is so important.
Chicken bone broth is better for joint and tendon pain
Chicken bone broth is mostly type II collagen. This has a slightly different amino acid profile than beef.
Beef for sleep, relaxation and mood boosting
Remember glycine, the amino acid I mentioned earlier? Turns out it is also good for helping you relax and sleep. Beef has slightly more glycine than chicken. But it chicken still has lots of glycine too!
Glycine taken before bed improves the quality of your sleep. Researchers think it’s because it decreases your core body temperature, allowing you to shut things down and relax.
Glycine also naturally increases levels of serotonin without increasing dopamine. This is generally a good thing for giving you happy thoughts and allowing you to relax.
Chicken may be better for skin health
Type II collagen (made from chicken cartilage) has some studies showing it can reduce visible signs of skin aging (wrinkles, crows feet), while also increasing hydration in skin, hair, teeth and nails.
This works by increasing collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin. More research is needed but it looks promising.
Suffice it to say, if you are looking to improve the quality of your skin, consider drinking chicken bone broth.
Chicken tastes lighter, beef is more bold
Beef broth has a stronger, bolder taste. Chicken broth is often lighter and a more relatable taste. After all, most of us ate chicken soup growing up.
As a result, upon first taste, you may prefer chicken bone broth over beef.
I will say that properly made beef broth satisfies like no other. However, it is sometimes more of an acquired taste.
I tend to vary my consumption seasonally. In the winter I find myself craving heartier, more satisfying soups and stews from beef bone broth.
In the summer I often eat lighter foods that go better with chicken.
Beef takes longer to cook
Since the bones in beef broth are denser, they require longer simmer times to extract the collagen, gelatin and amino acids from the connective tissue. I’d recommend 24 hours.
Chicken broth can be cooked in 12-16 hours if you have the right bones and temperature.
Beef bone broth typically does better when cooked at a higher temperature compared to chicken bone broth. You can get close to a boil while cooking beef broth. Chicken does better at a slightly lower temperature.
Read the absolute best bone broth recipe.
Chicken is more versatile in your kitchen
Chicken broth does not add a distinctly ‘chicken’ flavour to dishes. The same cannot be said for beef.
Beef broth confers a ‘beef’ flavour to whatever you make with it. It is most likely because chicken has a milder flavour.
For this reason, chicken makes a better base for smoothies, oatmeal, soups and any recipe that calls for water. Substitute 1:1 for water and you’re adding a natural source of collagen to whatever you cook.
This works with rice, pasta, risotto or quinoa. Chicken adds a rich depth while not dominating the flavour of your dish
Nutritional differences between beef and chicken
There are a few key nutritional differences worth considering. I wouldn’t worry about fat or carbohydrates in either bone broth because the quantity is so small that the differences are academic.
If you make bone broth at home and are not removing the fat layer before consuming, then beef will tend to have more omega-3s than chicken.
If you’re buying bone broth then the fat is usually removed.
Chicken will have more omega-6s. This is because most beef is grass-fed for the majority of its life. Grass fed diets confer more omega-3s in the finished meat or bones.
Chickens are fed grain rations which are high in omega-6 fats.
Chicken broth has more protein
This is due to the concentration of bones we use and types of bones we use in our chicken broth. Our chicken broth has 11g of protein per 250ml, while our beef has 8g of protein.
The main thing that affects the protein in your bone broth is how concentrated it is. If you have a high bones to water ratio, let it naturally reduce throughout cooking or reduce it after cooking, it will have higher protein per serving.
Chicken broth has more cholesterol
This is due to the omega-6 fat profile of chicken broth. Luckily we now know that cholesterol in food has no effect on blood cholesterol, so you need not worry about cholesterol in chicken broth.
Further to this, there is such a small amount of cholesterol (around 1mg per serving) that it is negligible anyways.
Chicken has more hydrating electrolytes
Properly made chicken broth has three times more potassium, chloride, magnesium and phosphorus than beef broth. It generally has more electrolytes than beef.
Chicken will hydrate you and keep your kidneys and blood plasma levels balanced with all these naturally occurring electrolytes.
But chicken also has more sodium
Chicken also has more sodium per serving. Depending on how much is added in cooking, it can have more than beef.
Our bone broth has 9-10% of your daily recommended intake for sodium. We find that the beef needs a bit more salt to taste, while the chicken needs less.
If you're adding high quality salt (we use Natural Pink Himalayan) then I wouldn’t get too concerned about it. It is the number one mix-in for bone broth.
However this is certainly not medical advise. Consult your primary care doctor about any of this.
Beef has more collagen per gram of protein
That’s right! If you have the same amount of protein per serving, then beef bone broth will have slightly more collagen per serving.
Beef bone broth also has slightly more glycine and proline. These are two amino acids that make up collagen, along with hydroxyproline and arginine.
Chicken broth still has collagen, however it is around 10% less per serving than beef. If you are looking at a 250ml serving, the difference is quite small: 1 gram of collagen.
Read our comparison, Collagen vs. Bone Broth: Surprising Differences You Need To Know.
Chicken has more muscle building amino acids
Chicken has higher levels of leucine, isoleucine and valine per serving than beef. These are three amino acids that make up the BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids.
Leucine in particular is thought to be essential for building and maintaining muscle.
Our testing indicates that chicken bone broth has 45% more leucine than beef broth. So if you care about building muscle, you might consider chicken broth.
Which is best, Chicken or Beef?
Which broth is best for you? Probably not the answer you’re looking for, but it depends. Both are great sources of amino acids, collagen and gelatin.
Chicken will have more hydrating minerals like potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, while beef has more collagen.
As you read above, chicken may be better for skin and joints, while beef is better for sleep and gut health. More research is needed to back up all of these benefits
Choose whichever is convenient for you in terms of sipping or cooking. Or do what I do and change your bone broth consumption with the season.
I drink chicken in the summer and spring, and beef in the winter. Or a sometimes mix the two -- which is delicious!
Don't stress over the choice. Drinking any bone broth is better than none!
Which is your favourite, chicken or beef?