Marine Collagen vs. Beef Collagen: What You Need to Know

Marine collagen is a healthy source of amino acids, and it’s perfect for pregnant mamas. But is it better than bovine collagen?

Marine Collagen vs Beef Collagen - What You Need to Know by Mama Natural

When you’re eating for two, you likely focus on good sources of protein, fresh fruits, and veggies — but don’t forget about collagen!  Collagen delivers a healthy serving of amino acids, which are essential for your growing baby — and reducing stretch marks. And collagen is also very high in protein.

But which is better for you, marine collagen or bovine (beef) collagen? 

In this article, I’ll answer all of your questions, including

What Is Marine Collagen?

Collagen seems to be a trendy buzz word lately, but collagen isn’t just a fad. It’s a protein that makes up much of your body — including your bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. Humans aren’t the only animal who have collagen in their bodies. Pigs, cows, fish — they’ve all got collagen!

Some people think of collagen only as a beauty product (or maybe as a joint supplement), but it can be an asset in your pregnancy supplement routine too. Collagen strengthens joints and ligaments to help your body carry your little bundle of your joint during pregnancy. Not only that, but collagen can help stop stretch marks from developing. Woohoo!

So what is marine collagen? Marine collagen is a hypoallergenic protein derived from fish skin or scales.  I know what you’re thinking: is that safe or healthy to consume fish scales?! Yes!

Let’s take a look at how marine collagen is harvested:

  • Fish are caught
  • Fish skins are washed
  • Fish skins are then hydrolyzed

Hydrolyzed marine collagen allows us to better digest the collagen. “Hydrolyze” comes from two Greek words: hydro (water) + lysis (break apart). To hydrolyze the fish scales means that water breaks apart the scales into smaller particles, so that the collagen peptides (what’s left over from the hydrolyzation process) are easier for us to digest. (source)

Smaller particles make a big difference when it comes to getting all those benefits from your collagen supplement. Fish collagen is absorbed up to 1.5 times faster (and more efficiently) into your body. This means that marine collagen has superior bioavailability over beef or porcine collagen. This is due to its smaller particle size compared to other types of collagen.

Beef Versus Marine Collagen

The most obvious difference between these two types of collagen is the animal source. Marine collagen, as the name suggests, comes from fish. The most common sources of marine collagen are cod, pollock, and haddock. Beef collagen comes from the bone marrow of cows while porcine collagen comes from the marrow of pigs. The source of the protein isn’t the only difference, though. Marine collagen differs from bovine collagen in a few ways. Most notably, marine collagen is absorbed by the body faster.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between the two:

Marine Collagen Bovine Collagen
What is the source? Wild-caught Farm-raised
Is it sustainable? Very Not likely
What is the sodium content? Low High
Speed of absorption High Low
Type of collagen Type I Type I & III
Exposure to antibiotics and hormones? No Possibly

If you do opt for bovine collagen, be sure to look for a brand that pledges to use only grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef.

Different Types of Collagen

If you look at the chart above, you might wonder what “type of collagen” really means. Believe it or not, there are many different types of collagen, and they are all identified by a number. As much as 80-90% of the collagen in your body is made up of type I, II, and III. (source)

Type I is the most prevalent type of collagen in your body. It makes your skin, nails, bones, hair, organs, bones, and ligaments — and marine collagen is an excellent source of type I collagen. Type II is another important type of collagen; it’s responsible for your joint health and digestive lining.

Even though your body makes its own collagen, it’s still not a bad ideal to consider using a collagen supplement. Did you know that you start to lose collagen as you age? After age 30, our collagen levels start to drop by 1.5% per year, and a supplement can help combat this loss. (source)

Benefits of Marine Collagen

Like beef collagen, marine collagen supports healthy skin, hair, and nails. Wild-caught marine collagen offers many additional benefits, including:

  • Skin rejuvenation. Collagen helps your skin stay hydrated and supple.
  • Improved digestion. Amino acids in collagen, such as glycine, glutamine, and proline support your intestinal tract as well as your stomach.
  • Promotes strong bones. Marine collagen helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus — which are essential for your bones and your growing baby’s bones!
  • Liver detox. Glycine (which is one of the many amino acids in collagen) promotes liver detox and liver repair. Liver support is a must when your liver is detoxing for two!
  • Improved energy levels. What pregnant mama doesn’t need a little boost? You can thank glycine, which helps turn glucose into energy for your cells.
  • Safe sources of collagen. Wild caught fish is free from pesticide residue, antibiotic treatment, and GMO-based feed.

And here’s the best perk of marine collagen: it’s oh-so-easy to use. Powder supplements stir easily into coffee, tea, soups, or smoothies. Unlike cod liver oil, which can sometimes taste fishy, this is one pescatarian supplement that is odorless and tasteless. Yay!

Best Marine Collagen

While there are many types of marine collagen on the market, the five key aspects of a good supplement should be:

  1. Wild-caught
  2. Free of any additives, preservatives, or artificial flavors
  3. Easy to mix in
  4. Neutral flavor
  5. Odorless

Looking for a new supplement? Check out these four marine collagen powders:

A note on gummy supplements: It’s tempting to grab some gummy supplements, but the gummy versions often include artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes to make them more palatable.

How to Use Marine Collagen

Using a powder supplement can be easy. You might think that a powder gets clumpy, but if you make sure your collagen label says “dissolves easily” you won’t have any issues.

Here are ten ways you can use marine collagen:

  1. Mix in a hot drink. Add a scoop (or two) of your collagen of choice to a hot tea or coffee.
  2. Add your powder to a smoothie — and your blender will incorporate the powder evenly. Marine collagen works well with any smoothie, including nut butter smoothies or fruity ones.
  3. Whisk into a cold drink. Use a whisk when blending into a cold drink like lemonade, ice tea, or juice. (This whisk works well for blending collagen powders, protein powders, etc. into cold (or hot) drinks.)
  4. Add to soup. Use an emulsion blender to incorporate the powder into hot soups.
  5. Add a little punch to your bone broth. Stir your collagen into your bone broth and take your sipping broth to the next (nutritional) level.
  6. Add collagen to your protein shake. Some mamas need extra protein during pregnancy, and if you supplement with protein, go ahead and some extra collagen in your shake too.
  7. Sprinkle collagen powder into energy balls.  Nut butter, collagen, coconut flakes, rolled oats, and coconut oil create a tasty — and extremely nutrient dense — bite.
  8. Add to yogurt bowls. Smoothie bowls and yogurt parfaits are delicious and good sources of protein and calcium for mamas-to-be.
  9. Stir into pancake mixes. Or banana bread. Or waffles. The options are endless!
  10. Mix into hot cereals. Collagen mixes well into hot oatmeal, or you can stir into overnight oats too.

You can find more recipes for collagen in our post “How to Use Collagen for Rockstar Hair, Skin, and Nails.”

Have You Tried Marine Collagen?

What has your experience been? What is your favorite way to use your supplement — hot? cold?  We’d love to hear!

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 85,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

4 Comments

  1. Hi! I’ve read high and low that bovine is recommended while marine is not (even within the same brand) due (1) to the mercury levels that most (even the most progressive) companies cannot make promises about, and (2) since the bovine collagens have been tested and have NSF certifications, while marine collagens do not; the latter is true even for the celebrated Vital Proteins brand.

  2. Hello,

    I am on week 20 of your book and was wondering if there were any benefits of taking beef liver supplements while pregnant? Not sure if you already mentioned this in your book and I missed it, but I have added raspberry leaf tea and cod liver oil to my daily routine. Thank you!

  3. Is there a risk of mercury exposure, like with eating wild caught fish, in using marine collagen?

    • Yes there is! See my comment above.


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