At AGN Roots, we love to share information, its who we are, especially when the principles can relate to our passions around grassfed whey.
BCAAs in Grass-Fed Whey - A Complete Guide
This topic is fascinating and sheds light on how over the years, the dairy industry has lost its grip on quality and become solely focussed on production quantity.
It’s our mission to share as much information as possible around the potential in sustainable grassfed farming in hopes of creating more demand, enough to drive impactful change in our health, wellness, and the environment.
What are BCAA’s in Whey Protein?
The acronym “BCAAs” is short for “Branched-Chain Amino Acids.”
Of these eighteen amino acids, there exist Essential & Non-Essential. Our bodies are not able to synthesize the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) ergo can only be acquired via diet. The nine EAAs include - isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, histidine, and valine.
The specific EAAs, the asterisks next to them, make up the three branched-chain amino acids. They are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Nutrition and fitness experts alike are infatuated with BCAAs because it is they that are considered the worker bees of muscle building and tissue repair.
Does Grassfed Whey Protein Contain More BCAAs?
It’s tough to remember that the evolutionary diet for cows is, and has always been lush green grass. In our article titled “Why is Grassfed Whey Better?” we explore in detail how our (humanity) evolutionary development drove the demand for milk to unsustainable levels. It wasn’t until we made the conscious effort to alter livestock diets in cattle such they can digest, ferment, and produce faster to supply our insatiable desire to consume.
Be that as it may, it’s critical we don’t lose the understanding over time that mother nature had optimized milk production in dairy cows long ago through their intended grass-fed diets. This optimization, however, was of the nutrient properties in the milk designed to healthily grow a baby calf from 45 kg to a 580 kg full-grown adult via the high concentration of muscle-building properties in the milk (amino acids including branched chained amino acids - BCAAs).
Does Standard Whey Protein Contain Less BCAAs?
It is a common fact that a cow whose diet make-up consists of 30% - 90% grain will facilitate growth cycles much faster and more aggressively than nature had intended. These types of diets essentially force the animals into a state of constant overgrowth.
The horrible truth is that this overgrowth practice massively increases the stresses exerted on the animal’s body and, without a doubt, serves as the largest source of health issues within the Diary & Beef industries.
By optimizing production quantity and actively working against mother nature’s well-intended and optimal plan, the quality of milk has declined over time.
Produce Analogy - GMOs (Optimized for Size Only)
This principle is very similar to genetically modified produce. Produce is most often priced based on weight. The unintended consequences of normalizing prices by mass of any given crop are farmers growing produce with the goal of water retention (water is heavy) rather than high-quality.
If you’ve ever compared the satisfaction obtained from biting into a small juicy apple versus a massive giant apple engineered to be huge, you now fundamentally understand what’s happening.
- Have you ever seen a plastic tub of whey protein that didn’t claim things like “ultra-premium, grassfed, free-roaming, undenatured, cold processed, 100% pure, the list goes on and on, the point being “all” whey is sold as “the best,” “the cleanest,” “the most transparent”.
- Unless the brand (for example, “AGN Roots”) self regulates by working with the global powerhouses in assurance such as LGC (Informed-Choice, Informed-Sport) or non-profits such as A Greener World or the ASPCA to certify sourcing, how can a consumer quickly gauge a product objectively?
Here’s a little trick – If you pay attention to the BCAAs (grams) concentration per 25 grams protein, this can serve as an objective measure that bares inherent checks & balances. Brands love to claim the Protein (Example 25 grams) and the BCAAs per serving concentrations in terms of grams as these are eye-catching properties when in the whey protein market.
The reality is, many factors impact the naturally occurring BCAA concentrations, factors such as:
- Animal’s Diet
- Animal’s Environment
- Animal’s Welfare & Stresses
- Animal’s Health & Physiological Wellbeing
What Whey Protein Isolate Contains the Most BCAAs?
How Many Grams of BCAAs Should My Grassfed Protein Have?
< 4.3 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams of protein –
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) produced milk will generally yield low concentrations of BCAAs. These animals are force-fed grain, struggle daily to find comforts, and this abuse should not be supported. It’s our goal for the world to reject products produced at the sacrifice of any animals’ well-being. These brands tend to round-up on label BCAA claim nutrition quantities to compete; however, in reality, make whey with less than 60% protein by volume primarily used in animal feeds.
< 4.9 grams < BCAAs per 25 grams protein –
Whey Processing Plants or Turnkey Suppliers. Brands that buy bulk whey from processing plants or directly from cheese manufactures who accept conventionally produced milk will be rounding up to claim their BCAA concentrations to 4.5 grams or slightly higher. Turnkey suppliers will purchase their whey from these operations; thus, if a product doesn’t share sourcing details, it never hurts to ask questions to avoid unintentionally supporting some for these operations.
< 5.0 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams of protein –
USDA Organic Farming. When we start getting into the USDA Certified Organic farms, remember, this simply requires organic-grain feed be used and no later than the last 3rd of gestation (not the entire life of the animal). Although the term “USDA Organic” is significant in marketing, when it comes to milk quality, there is no grassfed foliage requirement dictated by the USDA regulatory body. The low BCAA concentration can also be due to the USDA regulations not dictating higher standards of humane treatment for the livestock. Therefore, the stresses imposed on the herd impact the quality of milk, driving the macro-nutrients in the whey protein to reduced levels. To learn more about whey protein macro-nutrients in grassfed whey, please visit our article - “What are the Whey Protein Macro-Nutrients”?
< 5.5 grams BCAAs per 25 grams of protein –
Grassfed Finished or Partially Grassfed. Even with the best intentions, states like California suffer from drought along with various other impacts of climate change. These climate events lead up to the inconsistent use of nutrient-rich grain feed as an intermittent solution. Unpredictable weather and the non-routine treatment of the animals as they are coping increases stress levels. The quality of milk, therefore, the whey protein macro-nutrients become impacted.
< 5.9 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams of protein –
Predominantly Grassfed, If the environment allows, the potential exists for higher concentrations of BCAAs up to 5.9 grams. We can think about Northern California similarly to how we think about wine vintages and all the impacting factors. CA, although weather dependent, has the potential to reach greater BCAA levels. Wisconsin and countries like New Zealand also have some family farms that produce very high-quality small-batch milk.
< 6.5 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams of protein –
AGN Roots grassfed whey is sourced from year-round grassfed cows who spend their entire lives 20+ years growing old on pastures that grow 365 days a year. AGN Roots Grassfed Whey (6.5 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams protein) leads the industry in providing whey with the densest concentration of naturally occurring branched-chain amino acids available.
We wear this stat with pride as a testament to our knowledge that states happy cows make the best whey.
There’s nothing more important than feeling great about how you choose to source your and your family’s nutrition. When all the factors line up and create the perfect balance of sustainable farming, animal welfare, an Irish climate that supports a 95+% grassfed diet without intervention, well, it would be offensive to Mother Nature if we don’t embrace her creation.
So many factors go into the end product; however, it all starts with the animals and their diets, environment, and physiological well being. So next time you are shopping around for grassfed whey, consider using the BCAA concentration as a metric of quality.
Remember, the concentration is for 25 grams protein, so bust out your calculator and attack the problem!
Lastly, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about sourcing, our products, or thoughts about others. Fortunately, the subset of truly grassfed whey providers is a very tight-knit group with similar values; we are here to help!
~AGN Roots Grassfed Whey Team