The Benefits of Collagen Protein: Which Is Better, Fish or Beef?

Marine Collagen vs. Bovine Collagen: Which is the Best Choice?

Collagen protein is great for your skin, hair, and nails. It can even help heal your gut and repair connective tissues throughout the entire body.
But with all of the different sources of dietary collagen, which is the best?
Well, when it comes down to it, the two most common forms of collagen products are marine (fish) collagen and bovine (beef) collagen.

Today I want to talk about the best health benefits collagen has to offer, then tell you which form of collagen gets my #1 pick. 
Fish or bovine? Which is best? Read on to find out!

The Health Benefits of Collagen Protein Powder

The word “collagen” comes from the Greek word “kolla,” which means glue.
Collagen protein makes up between 25 - 30% of the total protein in the human body. You can think of it as the glue or scaffolding that holds everything together nice and tight.
It’s found in ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and skin, but collagen is also found in blood vessels, muscle, the gut, and in your teeth [1].
Your body makes new collagen to combat the breakdown and loss of connective tissue (that glue I was talking about earlier) from daily wear and tear. The problem is that your body starts producing less collagen as you age -- this can start as early as your twenties.
Unless you eat a bunch of connective tissue, organ meats, hooves or hides every week, you're not getting a ton of collagen in your diet.
One of the most popular collagen supplements today is hydrolyzed collagen powder.
It's a type of protein that has been partially broken down, making it easier for your body to absorb and deliver to the tissues that need it most. In fact, one study from the Journal of Nutrition revealed that hydrolyzed gelatin (essentially the "cooked" form of collagen), was absorbed intact and shown to accumulate in cartilage and connective tissue over time -- that is huge! [4].
When you eat a juicy steak or chug down your favorite whey protein shake, the proteins are first broken down into single amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins. It's only later that they're pieced together to form larger protein molecules--like the collagen in your skin, tendons, or ligaments.
We’ve written about the benefits of collagen in bone broth, but I want to take it one step further. Today I want to compare the pro’s and con’s of two very popular collagen powder supplements: beef (bovine) and fish (or marine) collagen.
Pressed for time? Feel free to skip down to the summary bullets.

Bovine Collagen 101

Bovine Collagen

Bovine collagen, also known as beef collagen is the natural protein found in the cartilage, bones, and hides of cows. It's almost identical to the kind of collagen we have in our bodies, which is what makes it such a popular and effective dietary supplement.
Collagen is rich in two important non-essential amino acids:
Glycine -- the primary amino acid in collagen, necessary for building healthy DNA. It also has inhibitory processes in the brain (much like GABA) known to reduce fatigue, and improve sleep quality [5].
Proline / hydroxyproline -- the main substance that cells in your skin and connective tissue need to manufacture collagen [6].

Beef Collagen Health Benefits

Beef collagen is the most popular collagen supplement on the market. It's known for it's ability to directly increase collagen production in the body.
Most people take collagen because it can improve skin health and elasticity. Collagen can reduce cracking and help repair connective tissues like joint cartilage, bone matter, and other tendons and ligaments.
But those aren’t the only benefits of bovine collagen. In addition, numerous recent studies point to added health benefits of beef collagen including:
  • Protein-sparing -- when blood sugar is low, collagen can be used for energy instead of burning precious muscle tissue. 
  • Better sleep -- human studies show that glycine from collagen taken before bed can increase sleep quality and combat daytime fatigue [7, 8].
  • Faster wound-healing -- collagen can fight off bacteria and help keep wounds sterile. It can also form a scaffold-like layer of tissue to help close a wound and cover damaged tissue.  One study showed that hydrolyzed beef collagen even increased ulcer healing by 200% [9].
  • Improved gut health -- collagen has been shown to have soothing, healing effects on the entire gastrointestinal tract. The use of collagen can also increase low stomach acid levels which can improve digestive health and gut function [4].
There are so many benefits to using a high quality beef collagen supplement and the studies are continuing to support the diverse health benefits of bovine collagen.
Now let's switch gears and talk about fish collagen.

Fish Collagen 101

Fish Collagen

Fish collagen, also called marine collagen is derived from the leftover scraps of fish that aren’t fit to eat or sell in stores (bones, skin, scales, etc.).
Fish collagen is popular in the beauty industry for it's ability to increase collagen production in the skin and support a glowing, youthful complexion.
Supplement companies promote the fact that fish collagen is made of smaller protein peptides as compared to beef collagen peptides.
While marketers are having a field day promoting claims of enhanced absorption and bioavailability, the research tells another story.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition examined the absorption rate of different types of collagen protein and found an absorption rate of approximately 95% across many popular hydrolyzed collagen sources [4].
The main indicator of absorption wasn’t the source of the collagen. It was that hydrolyzed collagen -- no matter the source -- is highly bioavailable and almost entirely absorbed into the bloodstream.

So, Which Collagen is Better, Fish or Beef?

When it really comes down to it, fish collagen or beef collagen, differentiating between the two is like splitting hairs. Both forms provide the healing benefits you're looking for. Ultimately, if you are sensitive to beef proteins, fish collagen would be the better option. Otherwise, if you're sensitive or allergic to shellfish, then bovine collagen would be the best choice.


Natural Protein



  • Beef (bovine) collagen supplements are mostly derived from the bones, cartilage, or hides of cows.
  • Fish (marine) collagen comes from leftover skin and scales from fish and or shellfish.
  • When shopping for collagen supplements choose a “hydrolyzed” product to ensure optimal absorption.
  • Bovine collagen is highly absorbed and reasonably priced. Make sure it is grass-fed, rBGH-free, organic, with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
  • Look for high-quality supplements that contain both collagen protein powder and whey protein powder to get all your essential and nonessential proteins in one convenient source.


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