Beaver-Based Alternative to Vanilla

All-natural; disconcerting
(Wikimedia Commons)

Vanilla beans, oddly enough, are not the only potential source of vanilla aroma. It also comes from coniferous trees and beavers.

Rumors have been circulating on the Internet that beavers’ anal secretions have the scent and taste of vanilla. Earlier this week, the Swedish National Food Agency confirmed that, saying that anal secretions that beavers use to mark their territory, called castoreum, can be used for vanilla flavoring in baked goods, chewing gum, pudding, etc.

In the U.S., castoreum is sometimes just cited as “natural flavoring,” in ingredient lists. However, beavers aren’t bred with the goal of harvesting their butt mucus, so it’s not likely to be a very common source of vanilla flavoring, according to the Agency. According to Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, published in 2005, total annual consumption of both castoreum extract and castoreum liquid was around 250 pounds.

If it’s rare, it must be a delicacy. 

Presented by

Julie Beck is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Health Channel.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Health

Just In