Beaver-Based Alternative to Vanilla

All-natural; disconcerting
More
(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. 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Julie Beck is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

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

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In