Where Does Whey Protein Come From?

by Scott Reid

Whey protein has become a staple supplement for most bodybuilders, strength athletes, and pretty much anyone living a healthy lifestyle because of its fat burning, muscle building, and immunity boosting properties.  

But where exactly does whey protein come from?  While this may seem like a simple question with an even simpler answer (hint: it comes from cow’s milk) not all whey protein powders are created equally.  

You’ll want to know a little bit about the history of whey protein, how it was discovered, and how to choose the best one.  

The Origins of Whey Protein

As stated, whey protein finds its origins in cow’s milk.  Like other many of mankind’s greatest achievements such as coffee and wine, whey was basically discovered by accident.  

No one knows the precise date nor identity of the discoverer but whey is thought to have been discovered around 6000 B.C. when someone, likely a pastor or dairy farmer, noticed that milk naturally separates into curds and whey over time.  

Since life is one great experiment and learning experiment, someone gave the whey a try and noticed its rejuvenating effects.  Hippocrates, Father of Modern Medicine and originator of the apt quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” gave whey to his patients to because of its immune enhancing effects.  

In the 1790s and 1800s, a dairy-farming village named Gais in the mountains of Switzerland became famous for the healing properties of the whey produced there.  People would come from thousands of kilometres away to visit the town and the healing spas that opened throughout the region.  

Liquid whey kept its status as a healing food-medicine in many regions but left the public consciousness around the 1950s.  We humans have a habit of forgetting what is good for us.  

The whey protein powder that athletes and others looking to optimise their performance is the result of scientific research to identify and maximise its health giving qualities.  

How to Choose the Highest Quality Whey Protein

So now you know the origins of whey but you shouldn’t just run out and buy the first whey protein powder you see and expect it to be a high quality product.  

There is a bewildering number of brands available on the market with wildly varying levels of quality so you must choose wisely in order to gain the benefits.  

Unfortunately, most modern farms are not operated like the farms in the fabled village of Gais, Switzerland.  In the past, cows would be free to graze all day, eat grass, and do what cows like to do.  

On most modern farms, cows are kept confined for most of the day, they’re fed an unnatural diet of corn, soy, and grains, and are injected with a host of antibiotics and steroids.  

It goes without saying that these vastly diets and lifestyles are going to affect not only the health and happiness of the cows but also the nutritional profile of the milk they give.  

The whey that comes from a happy grass-fed cow is going to be far superior to that of a commercial dairy cow.  Fortunately, there is a growing movement to be more respectful of the land and animals in our farming practices and you don’t have to go off and live on a permaculture or biodynamic farm to make a difference.  

A handful of whey protein producers actually care about the wellbeing of animals and are very aware of the nutritional superiority of grass-fed whey.  

Why Choose Grass-Fed Whey?

Other than the general happiness of the cows being a matter of interest, grass-fed milk contains up to 4 times the omega-3 fatty acid content compared to milk from grain fed cows.  

Omega-3 is essential to good health and is known to improve cardiovascular function, relieve joint pain, and contributes to a general sense of wellbeing.  Grass-fed whey protein also contains significantly higher levels of substances called immunoglobulins which, as their name suggests, enhance your immune system and help combat viruses and harmful bacteria.  

Lactoferrin is an incredible nutrient that acts to normalise and regulate iron levels throughout your body and grass-fed whey contains impressive levels of it.  Iron deficiency is a common result of the modern diet and can lead to feelings of fatigue and lethargy.   

Whey protein from grass fed cows can help you achieve optimal iron levels and keep you strong and energised.  


So now you know the ancient origins of whey protein and how to choose the highest quality whey protein powders on the market today.  

You’ll be able to impress your friends and the ladies with the depth of your historical knowledge and give your body exactly what it needs to improve your athletic performance and overall health.  

The most common way to add whey protein into your diet is through smoothies or shakes but more and more people are finding innovative ways to cook and bake with whey.  


Scott Reid
Scott Reid


Scott Reid is a 2 x Britain’s Strongest Man U105kg winner (2007 & 2008) and IFSA World's Strongest Man U105kg Competitor. He is an expert in strength and conditioning and also coaches functional nutrition. Scott’s passion for understanding the human body and how to optimise every aspect of it has driven him to study under legends such as Paul Chek. Scott now coaches MMA Athletes, Strongmen and Bodybuilders to name but a few, helping them to implement a well structured diet and become more powerful, explosive versions of themselves.

Also in Whey Protein

Are Whey Protein Powders Safe?
Are Whey Protein Powders Safe?

by Scott Reid

Who Should Take Whey Protein?
Who Should Take Whey Protein?

by Scott Reid

Whey Protein Recipes
Whey Protein Recipes

by Scott Reid