The effect of the level or source of dietary protein or protein-derived peptides on Ca absorption is not well understood. We determined, therefore, the influence of habitual dietary casein level, meal casein and meal casein phosphopeptide (CPP) on Ca absorption in the rat. True fractional Ca absorption was investigated in male 7-week-old rats, Wistar strain, in three separate studies using a faecal 47Sc : 47Ca ratio method. In studies A and C, rats (n 8 per group) were fed on a purified diet containing 200 g casein/kg for 2 weeks. Rats were then given a 47Ca-labelled meal (10 g) containing (per kg) either 0, 100, 200, or 300 g casein (study A) or 0, 100, 200, 350 or 500 g CPP (study C). In study B, rats (n 24 per group) were fed on a purified diet containing (per kg) either 200, 350 or 500 g casein for 2 weeks. Each group was then further randomized into three groups (n 8 per group) and given a 47Ca-labelled meal (10 g of the same diet) containing (per kg) either 200, 350 or 500 g casein. Ca absorption from a meal was unaffected by increasing meal casein concentration from 0 to 300 g/kg (study A), but was increased with a meal casein content of 500 g/kg (study B). Fractional Ca absorption decreased with increasing usual dietary casein intake in the range 200–500 g/kg (study B), suggesting intestinal adaptation. Ca absorption was unaffected by inclusion of 100 g CPP/kg in a single meal but was significantly (P < 0·001) reduced by 200, 350 and 500 g CPP/kg meal, with no evident dose-relationship. Thus, while Ca absorption was enhanced by high-casein meals, the mechanism remains unclear.