Lately I have noticed a lot of talk about Beef Protein Isolate. Several companies are promoting products that supposedly contain protein extracted from beef in the form of powders and in one case a liquid. Having been in the industry for quite some time this is not something new – products purported to contain beef protein amino acids, or beef protein extract / isolates – have made it to the market here and there over the years and have enjoyed varying degrees of sales success.
But what do these beef protein products really contain? Do they contain actual beef (bovine muscle tissue) that has had the protein isolated out from the fat and water content? Well let’s think about that for a moment. I don’t need to do the math but the price of beef is obviously extraordinarily high per gram of protein compared to other sources that we drink as powdered isolates / concentrates such as soy, milk (including whey and casein), and egg. Is it even economically feasible to take that sirloin or rib eye and extract out the protein? It simply is not. Even with the cheapest cuts it just is not I am afraid.
So is this all a big lie? Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily a blatant lie because I truly believe these protein products are derived from cattle……..just not the part of the cattle you think. It is my conviction that these beef protein isolates are made from cattle bones, ligaments, hides, ears, and other miscellaneous throw away parts of the carcass. All of these pieces of cattle are treated with a series of hot water and dilute acid treatments and filtration steps to yield a thick viscous liquid that is usually then dried. You may be familiar with the end product. It’s called gelatin.
Yes gelatin is a protein and yes it can be derived from cattle (and also from pigs and chickens). The unfortunate thing about gelatin however is its amino acid profile. It’s pretty terrible. It consists mostly of three unessential amino acids – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. It is deficient in the essential amino acids isoleucine, threonine, and methionine and contains no tryptophan whatsoever. So it’s a really poor protein source. Of course, combined with other protein sources that complement the amino acids that are lacking, gelatin can be a helpful contribution to one’s daily protein intake. But by itself it’s a far cry from whey, egg, or even soy for that matter.
What makes me so sure these products simply contain gelatin? Well besides the obvious economic factors (steak is expensive, gelatin is dirt cheap), all one has to do is look at the amino acid profile of the products. Lately people selling these products are apparently being cleverly deceitful and not putting on their label the full amino acid profile, but fortunately one very well-known company has
If you look at the amino acid profile in that link and compare it to that of gelatin below
you will notice the match is a dead give away. The only slight discrepancies are probably due to the fact that the product contains small amounts of beef albumin and beef liver too.
Now I won’t go so far as to say that all of these products that contain beef protein isolate (errr…I mean gelatin) are poor. I have noticed that some of them have beefed up (pun intended) their formulas with the addition of tryptophan, BCAA’s, and other amino acids. This would provide a product with a more complete amino acid profile which would make the overall nutritional value decent. But the bottom line is it doesn’t appear you are getting what you think you are getting, and depending on the price, getting what your dollar is worth.
I am going to stick with my egg and casein.