The Real Scoop on Beef Protein Powders

The Real Scoop on Beef Protein Powders

Beef is arguably the most virile of all meats. It is a symbol of strength; a nutrient dense protein source that screams power, gains, manliness and testosterone.

But this potent bovine animal is much more than a food source to hardcore muscleheads. The male of the species - a bull - has a long and illustrious connection to the very source of power that drives gains: Progressive overload.

Legend has it that Milo of Croton, a Grecian wrestler from the 6th century, developed his amazing strength by carrying a bull. Each day Milo would hoist this newborn calf onto his back and shoulders, and walk through the city of Croton. As the young bull grew in both girth and weight, and transitioned into an adult bull, Milo became a powerhouse.

Over the last several years this high protein supplementation option has garnered quite a bit of attention. Quality beef protein powders from reputable companies continue to enter the market on a regular basis.

Though sales of these powders are still quite small in a relative sense, they are growing...and why wouldn't they be? The idea of a beef protein powder sounds appealing. Why go for whey when you can supplement with the flesh of a bull? Sounds awesome, right?

That is the question. Is beef protein powder a better choice than whey? What exactly is in a beef protein powder and how does it stack up from a nutritional standpoint? 

Beef Protein is Cow Flesh, Right? WRONG

Beef protein powder, typically labeled as Hydrolyzed Beef Protein Isolate, is NOT made from cow flesh. Sorry to be the bearer of awkward and somewhat gross news, but beef protein powder is actually derived from the throwaway parts of a cow.

Yes, indeed. Beef protein does not come from beef flesh. It comes from parts and pieces such as hooves, bones, skin, connective tissue, joints, hide, ligaments, ears and more. Cow ear gains, anyone?

Personally, the thought of drinking "fruit punch" or "blue raspberry" powdered cow ears and hooves is rather off-putting. There is inherent nutritional value in all consumable parts of an animal; no one can argue this point. That being said, most consumers are under the impression that this beef powder is actually beef.

Sorry folks, you are not chugging a form of processed, powdered cow meat. You are drinking powdered unmentionables.

What About the Inclusion of Glutamine and Creatine?

Of the eight major beef protein powder brands I analyzed, four contained added creatine monohydrate and three contained glutamine or glutamine-alpha-ketoglutarate, a form of glutamine known for better absorption. Both creatine and glutamine elevate the number of grams of protein found in each container, but the downside is that they provide consumers with fewer actual grams of beef protein per scoop.

The inclusion of creatine and glutamine into protein powders is rather controversial. It drives the production cost of a powder down while providing consumers with a lower-grade product.

It should be noted that the actual included amounts of these two supplements remains unknown. I could not find stated amounts of glutamine or creatine listed in the "amount per serving" section of each product label.

I can see no important reason for a beef protein powder to include creatine and glutamine, but they are not without value. Creatine is the most studied and respected supplement on the market, and glutamine is a popular bodybuilding supplement as well.

Is this amino spiking? Are beef protein manufacturers trying to drive costs down, or simply adding glutamine and creatine because they feel these supplements add value to their products? Again, this is up for debate. You decide.

Why is Beef Protein Gaining Popularity?

Beef protein powder is being heavily marketed for two major reasons:
  1. It's more profitable than whey protein.
  2. There are fewer players in the beef protein market.
Beef powder does not have to become a hot seller for it to help a company's bottom line. The profit margins for these products are more meaty than whey protein (pun intended), allowing a company to increase profits while providing a niche service to consumers who want protein powder options.

Not everyone wants whey protein. Not everyone cares that beef protein isn't actually flesh. Supply and demand will drive the future of each of these powders. Just know what you are getting for your dollar.

Final Thoughts on Beef Protein Powder Quality

Is it possible to know if the Hydrolyzed Beef Protein Isolate you are drinking is quality? I guess that depends on what the definition of quality is.

What are the standards here? Is having 23.9% cow ear and only 15.7% hooves better than any other ratio? No one knows, at least that I am aware of.

At the end of the day cow parts are cow parts. Beef protein manufacturers are likely just piling the unwanted parts of a cow onto some conveyor belt of gore. I imagine this process looks more like a scene from the movie Hostel than it does a production line of gains.

Random ears. Random eyeballs. Bones. Hooves. Hide. Maybe even testicles and anus.

Until companies become transparent about the manufacturing process of beef protein powder, the quality contained in each scoop is up for debate.

Editor's note: Have you tried a beef protein powder? What are your thoughts on this topic? Please let us know if beef protein is still something you would consider in the comments section below.
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Alex - August 4, 2020

Honestly I feel this article is heavy on emotion and very light on facts, you haven’t given us any persuasive reasons to avoid beef protein other than the idea it might be made from parts you wouldn’t personally want to eat. How about a comparison of typical digestibility and breakdown of nutrients, for example?

Ronnie Robertson III - February 17, 2020

It’s a viable option for those with allergies or sensitivities to whey. It’s also been touted as the go-to protein shake for those with autoimmune challenges as well.

It’s interesting because the companies that make this stuff claim that they’re using actual meat vs leftover parts. I guess at the end of the day – results are what matter the most so if you’re gains are awesome f*ck it – right?

Beverly International used to include been plasma in their Ultra Size formula that they discontinued long ago and many, including myself thought was an incredible formula! It seemed like nothing was better than Ikea Size. But then they changed the formula, dropped the beef plasma and eventually replaced Ultra Size with ultimate UMP. I tried again and again but eventually stopped using Beverly. They sold out to the big discount internet chains and I’m not sure if that’s what caused quality to decline – I suspect it was party of it.

I’m not quite sure if beef plasma is the same as IsoBeef™ or HydroBEEF™ but nonetheless I think they possess some value.

Imagine an Ultimate Muscle Shake that included the best Whey, Beef plasma, Beef Liver and Whole Egg!!! That would be AWESOME!!!

Catherine Grenga - October 25, 2019

What people fail to realize/remember is that some of these so called “scraps” of the animal were once prized cuts. The gelatin and eyeballs are extremely good for you. I don’t know much about ears, but if I had to guess I’d say they’re good too. I know brains, and other organ meats are the most nutrient dense parts of an animal. Just because we’re not used to eating these parts in our modern world doesn’t mean they aren’t worth eating or that they are sub-par.

Bev - April 18, 2019

I stop getting extra protein from shakes. Whey made me feel bloated, not a good sign. The beef or Cow parts , don’t make me feel bloated or spend extra visit to the sitter .

James - March 12, 2019

Great article 👍 I really lol’d at the Hostel reference – funny as hell. The only thing I worry about with beef protein isolate is the CJD risk. I haven’t heard anything related to Mad Cow Disease for 20 years here in the UK, so Guess it’s safe, but who knows….

Pete - February 28, 2019

It doesn’t give me a stomach ache like whey does, so that’s a plus…

Alessandro - September 28, 2017


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