Dull, wrinkled, sagging skin and dry, brittle hair and nails — all of these are signs of aging, which in large part can be attributed to the loss of collagen that occurs naturally with age. Collagen is the most common and abundant of your body's proteins, comprising about 25 percent of the total protein in your body, and up to 80 percent of your skin, in terms of dry weight.1
It’s found specifically in the connective tissues throughout your body, from your muscles, bones and tendons to your blood vessels and digestive system. As a compound of essential amino acids, there’s only one way to get collagen; your body can’t produce it, so you must obtain it through your diet. Most people, however, will simply reach for a collagen supplement rather than boiling down chicken feet or beef bones for a homemade collagen-rich broth.
But what are you really getting in these supplements? Recent laboratory testing stirred up controversy with popular collagen and bone broth products results revealing potential contaminants — including antibiotics, prescription drug metabolites, parabens, steroids and insecticides.
Troublesome Contaminants Found in Many Nonorganic Collagen Products
The collagen products in question were selected based on their popularity and sales ranking on Amazon.com, and all were nonorganic. The results indicate that if you are consuming bone broth or collagen products that are not organic you are likely getting CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) byproducts. As reported by the Consumer Wellness Center (CWC):2
"The nonprofit Consumer Wellness Center has completed testing of eight popular bone broth and bone broth protein products to determine the possible presence of chemical pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, toxicological chemicals and food additive chemicals. No companies paid the CWC to be included or excluded from these tests. All products were purchased from Amazon.com in the year 2017.
Lot numbers of each product tested are included in the full results. No one involved in this testing has any financial stake in the success or failure of any bone broth product … Chemical analytes were confirmed using five different scientific analysis methods. Those methods, encompassed in LC-MS-TOF analysis, include accurate mass, retention time, isotopic ratios, isotopic spacing and ion fragmentation ‘fingerprint’ analysis.” 3
Other chemicals claimed to be found in some of these products include:4
• Cyclandelate, a vasodilator drug
• Netilmicin, an antibiotic
Nonorganic Collagen and Bone Broth Products Are Likely CAFO-Derived
So, what do these results mean? In a nutshell, if a collagen or bone broth protein product is not certified organic, it is very likely the primary ingredients are sourced from animals raised in CAFOs. If you do not consume factory farmed/CAFO meats, you likely should not be consuming CAFO collagen and bone broth products.
Factory farmed animal products are problematic for many reasons, such as accelerating antibiotic resistance, poor conditions for the animals, and because the farms contribute to severe environmental pollution. As the news spread of these findings, CWC updated its press release with the following disclaimer:
"After reviewing consumer feedback about the lab tests, Consumer Wellness Center has learned that many people are misinterpreting these results, and some are taking them out of context … [T]he chemicals originally detected were not ingredients nor overwhelming signals that would indicate any sort of acute health risk or illegality …
[A]t no point did the CWC assert that the products tested were acutely dangerous or running afoul of FDA regulations. The FDA allows astonishing levels of many chemicals in non-organic products, and this is frequently reflected and affirmed in scientific lab testing results."
CAFO-derived collagen and bone meal or broth may not be acutely toxic, but purchasing food products from factory farms is a problematic practice. I recommend eating mostly organic foods, as each and every source will add to your overall toxic load. Other studies have shown CAFO animal bones and hides can also be a source of heavy metals such as lead,7 which is another potential concern when buying nonorganic animal products.