What is bovine collagen?

by Hannah de Gruchy December 02, 2021

What is bovine collagen?

What is bovine collagen and what are its benefits?

Collagen is an important protein that’s responsible for the health and integrity of our skin, joints, cartilage, bones, muscles and blood vessels. It’s the most abundant protein in the human body, but as we age, our levels begin to naturally decline.

The most obvious sign of depleting collagen levels is the development of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin. Our joints, muscles and bones can also become weaker over time.

In order to help “top up” their collagen levels, some people decide to take collagen supplements. Among the most common are bovine collagen supplements, sourced mainly from cows. Consuming collagen-rich and collagen-boosting foods can also be helpful.

Bovine collagen: fast facts 

  1. Bovine collagen comes predominantly from cows, but can also be derived from animals such as bison and water buffalos.
  2. There are five types of collagen in the human body, with types I and III being found primarily in the skin – bovine collagen is a plentiful source of collagen types I and III.
  3. Bovine collagen supplements can be beneficial for promoting healthy, youthful skin and looking after the health of the muscles and bones.

What is bovine collagen? 

man stretchingCollagen isn’t just found in human bodies, it’s also found in the bodies of various animals, where it performs the same role supporting the health of different tissues. Bovine collagen can be derived from animals including bison, yaks, water buffalos, and antelope but most commonly, bovine collagen is derived from cows.

To produce bovine collagen, cow bones are boiled in water to extract the collagen which is at this point gelatinous in nature. It’s then dried and ground into a powder to be used as a supplement.

Bovine collagen cowsThere are many different types of collagen supplements available, from capsules to powders and drinks, and the majority are made from bovine collagen, sometimes called beef collagen.

There are five main types of collagen in the human body - types I, II, III, IV, and V – and each has a different role. Of these five, types I and III are most commonly found in the skin where they have an important role in supporting the structure.

Bovine collagen is particularly rich in collagen types I and III, meaning that it’s especially beneficial for minimising the signs of depleted collagen and ageing, such as fine lines, wrinkles, dehydration, and sagging, drooping skin. This type of collagen is therefore often used in supplement form to maintain the health and youthfulness of the skin.

Hydrolysed collagen vs bovine gelatin – is there a difference?

Bovine collagen is found as two different types of collagen in supplements – hydrolysed collagen and bovine gelatin.

Hydrolysed collagenHydrolysed collagen, also referred to as collagen peptides, is a type of collagen that’s been broken down into smaller molecules called peptides. This type of collagen is beneficial because collagen molecules are naturally large and can be difficult for the body to absorb. Hydrolysed collagen is more easily absorbed due to its smaller size.

Bovine gelatin is formed of larger molecules of collagen, meaning that some (but not all) people taking gelatin in supplement form find that it can cause abdominal bloating.

Hydrolysed collagen is most often found in powder and liquid form, whilst bovine gelatin is more commonly found in gels and chews due to its gelatinous nature.

The benefits of bovine collagen

Exercise and skin

Bovine collagen supplements have multiple benefits, not least for the skin. As collagen levels naturally decline with age, we lose suppleness, elasticity and moisture. This is because collagen acts as a biological scaffold that supports and lifts the skin.

As collagen degrades, we lose this strength and the skin begins to display the signs of ageing. Studies show that hydrolysed collagen supplements from bovine collagen can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can promote better skin elasticity.

Proteins such as collagen help the body build muscle, and studies show that hydrolysed bovine collagen supplements also support increased muscle strength when taken alongside a regular resistance training routine.

Not only that, bovine collagen has also shown an ability to help prevent bone loss. Studies are in their infancy, but it’s thought that this could be beneficial for helping to prevent or slow down osteoporosis.

Marine collagen vs bovine collagen

Bovine collagen is a plentiful source of types I and III collagen. Marine collagen, sourced from the skins, scales, fins and bones of fish is a rich source of types I and II collagen. This difference in bovine and marine collagen means that they can be used to support different needs.

Marine collagen supplements are useful for supporting the needs of the skin as well as the cartilage found within the joints of the body where it acts as a cushion.

Taking bovine collagen supplements

Bovine collagen supplements are available in various different forms, the most common being grass fed bovine collagen powders.

Bovine collagen supplements sourced from organic grass-fed cows (as opposed to grain fed) are considered among the most beneficial. They contain no added antibiotics or growth hormones and come from cows that have led a happy life. Grass fed collagen (sometimes also referred to as pasture raised collagen) powders are also popular in the form of bone broth powder drinks.

If you’d rather consume bovine collagen powder as a tasty drink, then there is also a collagen coffee available.

Bovine collagen powders are a nutritious way of supplementing a healthy diet and lifestyle with collagen to help support the health of your skin, muscles and bones. Need helping choosing your collagen? Send us a message or read our article on the best bovine collagen powder in the UK.

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy


Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.

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