Simply put, collagen is the protein that makes up connective tissue. It is a fibrous substance made up of four amino acids:
Collagen not only gives structure to various parts of the body, but it adds a certain degree of elasticity.
Where Collagen is Found in Animals
In farm animals, collagen is a key part of a number of tissues:
- Intervertebral disks.
- Blood vessels.
- Gastrointestinal tract.
Where Animals Get Collagen
Healthy farm animals can synthesize their own collagen. This process is not yet fully understood. However, we do know that somehow the body assembles the amino acids listed above into collagen with the assistance of vitamin C, and that the collagen then goes on the make up the structures listed above.
Collagen is sometimes given to performance horses to promote joint health and to aid recovery from injuries to the tendons and ligaments. Otherwise it is not a common supplement for farm animals.
Animal-derived collagen has aided humans in a number of ways, however. For instance, collagen is what gives leather is strength and flexibility. It has long been used to make glue, as well.
Collagen is one of the reasons that cooking meat slowly is a reliable way to ensure its tenderness. Cuts that are typically considered lower in quality are usually the ones that contain more connective tissue (i.e., collagen). As the collagen in the meat is exposed to temperatures over 160°F, it begins to dissolve into gelatin. Slow-cooking gives the collagen the time it needs to completely melt, leaving the meat tender.