When it comes to bone broth vs. collagen, there are some shocking differences no one is talking about.
I get lots of questions which usually centre around what the difference is between bone broth and collagen.
Does bone broth have collagen? If bone broth has collagen, does that mean collagen has bone broth in it?
Trust me, I understand your confusion. I’ve read all the articles trying to explain the differences and a lot of it is wrong.
There are more differences than similarities between the two.
They are made completely differently (scary stuff on that below) have different nutrients and uses.
The main nutritional difference you’ll see below is that bone broth is full of hydrating electrolytes. While collagen has none.
The quality and sourcing is another huge difference you’ll see below. I’ll outline exactly how collagen and bone broth are made.
You’ll see that collagen is heavily processed using nasty enzymes and deodorizing agents.
To date I haven't seen any articles citing lab-based nutrition facts testing to explain the differences between collagen and bone broth. Most articles outline some differences at a surface level, but fail to go deep.
I am publishing this report to provide you with some concrete numbers to back up all the internet fluff out there. Buckle up, let's begin.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a tough, sinewy protein which holds our bodies together. It makes up our skin, bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. And keeps all of them healthy and supple.
Collagen powder is harvested from animal hides and skin into a fine powder for nutritional purposes (more detail below).
There are four magical amino acids that make collagen powder special: glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.
These four amino acids are important for skin, bone, gut health and much more.
Read our detailed collagen article for a full breakdown of the benefits.
At this point you might be thinking…
Step 1: Take collagen.
Step 2: Transform myself into a supple, beautiful human capable of anything!
Sounds amazing right?
The frustrating part is that our body's natural collagen production declines as we age. Among other things, this decline will show itself in a few ways.
Your skin may be starting to wrinkle. More importantly, you can’t carve up the dance floor like you used to.
The good news is that consuming collagen can help your body with some of these things. It is not a miracle, but it can help.
You can do this by taking collagen powder or consuming whole food sources of collagen, like bone broth.
I’ve written a guide about increasing collagen levels in your body. There are specific things you need to do in addition to eating collagen rich foods.
For this article, let’s stick with the differences, starting with manufacturing.
How is collagen powder made?
Collagen peptides and hydrolyzed collagen are the same thing. As you can see, collagen is heavily processed.
It requires a lot of chemical processing using enzymes to isolate the collagen molecules from the original animal parts.
Most collagen is bovine in origin. These are made of cow hides, not bones.
Since collagen is so popular it is becoming a commodity. The one thing that drives differentiation among commodities is price. It is a race to the bottom.
Manufacturers are constantly trying to find cheaper ways to make it.
This is dangerous as they will use whatever means necessary to process the hides into collagen.
Heavy processing kills and strips out all natural nutrients, leaving you with a synthetic powder.
We don’t know how well synthetic nutrients are absorbed by your body. More on that at the end.
Where are collagen supplements made?
It is too expensive to produce collagen in Canada. There is a small portion made in the USA from USA cows. The remainder is made in Brazil, China, South Korea and Europe.
Why? It is too expensive to make collagen in North America. These companies can’t compete on price with Brazil manufacturers.
Brazil has the largest industrial feedlots (aka factory farms) in the world. They have a lot of beef. It makes sense that they have the largest collagen manufacturing in the world.
This is also the reason you do not see any certified organic grass fed collagen. It is too expensive and difficult to source enough cows to make it.
How is bone broth made?
Bone broth is much more minimally processed. It requires water and heat to extract the vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Bone broth simmers for a long time at a low heat. Then you simply remove the solids with a strainer, remove the fat and package it.
Here at Bluebird Provisions we take pride in using traditional long simmer times in large stainless steel pots. This ensures for the highest quality organic bone broth.
The great thing about bone broth is that most regions have a variety of local companies making it. They’ll offer different spins on bone broth, each with their own flavour profiles.
There are locally sourced and organic bone broth options across Canada and the US.
Read this checklist on buying bone broth from a store.
Different Types of Collagen
There are 28 types of collagen. To simplify things, I’ll focus on the most common types you find in supplements.
Bovine Sourced Collagen
- Made up of type III and some type I collagen.
- Thought to be effective for gut health and skin, hair and nails.
- What you see in most collagen supplements.
- Easier to source and more cost effective.
Chicken Sourced Collagen
- Primarily made of type II collagen.
- Made from chicken cartilage.
- Collagen type II is used for osteoarthritis (joint pain and recovery) and not much else.
- Generally harder to source and more expensive than bovine.
Marine Sourced Collagen
- Type I Collagen makes up most marine sources.
- Comprises most of our skin, hair, nails, organs, bone and ligaments.
- Thought to be better for increasing collagen in these areas.
- Harder to source and the most expensive option.
- Doesn’t taste great.
You hear how bone broth is a natural source of collagen. There are similarities between types of protein in bone broth and collagen.
Protein types differ by amino acid profiles. The amino acid profiles of collagen and bone broth are perhaps the one similarity between the two. Let’s talk about the differences.
Nutritional difference between collagen and bone broth
Overall protein content
Bone broth has slightly more protein per serving. By weight, bone broth is 92% protein while collagen is around 90% protein. However, the difference is negligible.
You shouldn't be relying on collagen or bone broth for your protein requirements anyways as neither are complete proteins.
Carbs and Fat
These are a wash because neither collagen nor bone broth protein have carbs or fat (assuming you remove the fat layer on the bone broth before drinking). Both will have trace amounts of fat.
No significant difference.
Bone broth has more hydrating electrolytes
This is where things get interesting.
Bone broth has more hydrating nutrients and electrolytes. These include potassium, phosphorus, chloride and sodium.
This is due to the types of bones and gentle cooking process required to make bone broth.
On the other hand, the heavy processing to make collagen powder destroys these nutrients.
Let’s dig into the specifics.
Bone broth has 26 times more potassium
Yes you read that correctly. Bone broth has up to 400 mg (11% of recommended daily intake) of potassium per serving. That's the same as eating a banana.
Collagen has 13 mg.
Let me tell you why potassium is so important.
Potassium helps regulate fluid balance and muscle contractions in your body. Research shows that a high-potassium diet may reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones.
The big issue is that most adults in Canada and the USA get half of the recommended daily intake of potassium (4700 mg).
Bone broth has chloride, collagen does not
Chicken bone broth has around 116 mg of chloride per 15 g serving. This is compared to 0 for collagen powder.
Why should you care about chloride?
Chloride is one of the most important electrolytes in your body. It helps balance the amount of fluid inside and outside of your cells. Chloride also helps maintain proper blood volume, blood pressure, and pH of your body fluids.
Bone broth has way more phosphorus
I know I know, another mineral you have heard of but don’t know what it does. Bone broth has 22 times more phosphorus compared to collagen. Per serving this works out to 56 mg for bone broth (13% of your RDA) and 2.5 mg for collagen.
Not sure what phosphorus does? It’s main function is helping you form healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed for the body to make protein for the growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues.
Bone broth has more sodium
Most bone broth has around 150-200 mg sodium per serving. Compare this to 30-40 mg per serving for collagen and it’s easy to see that bone broth has more sodium.
This is because the meaty bones, skin and animal tissue that goes into making bone broth has sodium in it.
Combine that with any salt which is added in cooking, and the number is higher than collagen where the sodium is stripped out.
Most bone broth needs a bit of salt to bring out the flavour.
You’ll notice that the sodium level in naturally made bone broth is usually directly proportional to the potassium level.
Potassium is usually twice the amount of sodium. They balance one another out. Potassium can help you flush out excess sodium in your body.
Collagen has more calcium
You’ll find that most collagen powders have 20 mg per serving of calcium. This is more than the 5 mg per serving in most bone broth.
Conventional wisdom and internet writers alike seem to think that bone broth has lots of calcium because it is made of… bones. It does not.
Amino acid differences between collagen and bone broth
The amino acids profiles of bone broth and collagen are similar. Instead of sharing the specifics on all amino acids, I’ll mention a few slight differences.
Collagen has slightly more glycine
Collagen protein has around 3 g of glycine per serving. This is slightly more than beef bone broth (2.5 g per serving) and more than chicken bone broth (1.9g per serving).
Glycine is a really important non-essential amino acid. Most think it is responsible for many of the touted health benefits of collagen.
The other important amino acids responsible for the health benefits of collagen are proline, hydroxyproline and arginine.
As you can see in the fancy illustration, the levels of these amino acids are similar between bone broth and collagen.
Chicken bone broth has more BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids)
If you are trying to build or maintain muscle then you may have heard of BCAAs. These are a group of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are thought to be important in building muscle, decreasing muscle fatigue and soreness.
Chicken bone broth has 60% higher levels of BCAAs than collagen. Beef bone broth has comparable levels of BCAAs to collagen.
I wouldn’t concern yourself too much with this. The absolute levels are low compared to any BCAA supplement or whole food sources like eggs.
How does gelatin fit into this?
Gelatin is basically cooked collagen. It has the same health benefits as collagen and the same amino acid profile.
It requires more heat to isolate and form gelatin. Gelatin has a jelly like consistency when mixed with water. For this reason, it may be better (or worse, depending on your preferences) for cooking.
I actually prefer gelatin to collagen as it is a great way to thicken soups, sauces and yogurt.
Most people find gelatin easier to digest as the gel consistency gently soothes your stomach and intestines.
Is bone broth or collagen best?
I would argue that bone broth is superior to collagen for a few reasons.
- There are way more hydrating electrolytes
- It is minimally processed and provides nutrients in their natural form
- It tastes amazing
- It’s versatile in your kitchen
- Bone broth provides the same amino acids as collagen
If you interested in trying bone broth, I'd ask you to consider giving mine a try.
I’ll leave you with this. Synthetic nutrients from supplements (like collagen powder) are no replacement for a healthy, balanced diet.
We do not know how well synthetic nutrients are absorbed and used by our bodies. For example, research shows that naturally sourced vitamin E from food is absorbed twice as well as synthetic vitamin E from supplements.
Whole food sources of nutrients are superior to the vitamins and minerals from supplements.
Eating real food gives you a whole range of vitamins, minerals, cofactors and enzymes that allow your body to use it in harmony.
It is the way nature intended us to consume things.
One caveat: if you need the convenience of powder and cannot find a source of bone broth then you can consider collagen supplements.
Want to know more? Read my article on the nutritional difference between beef and chicken bone broth.
What do you think of collagen and bone broth after reading this?
No need to reply. Just wanted to say I appreciate these articles and have been reading them + love learning more about the differences (chicken v beef, broth v collagen) as well as great recipes. I’m not in Canada (and haven’t been for the last while) but when I am inevitably back in Vancouver I am looking forward to using your products once again. Hope your business is still going strong during these times. All the best!