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Love Vanilla Flavoring? That’s the Sweet Smell of a Beaver’s Backside!


That’s correct fellow Green Monsters. Some vanilla flavoring comes from beavers. Specifically, the beaver’s castor sacs, located between the pelvis and base of the tail.

The resulting substance, castoreum, has a musky vanilla scent which is created by the animals’ diet of bark and leaves. Beaver’s use it to mark their territory, while humans use it to flavor their foods. Our friends at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have approved the use of castoreum in food and perfumes for the past 80 years, according to a 2007 study in the International Journal of Toxicology.

How is castoreum harvested you may ask? Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, says, “You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid…You can squirt [castoreum] out. It’s pretty gross.”

Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions and urine.

Crawford added, “People think I’m nuts…I tell them, ‘Oh, but it’s beavers; it smells really good.'”

The semi-good news? Only 292 pounds of the substance is collected per year. The bad news? Labeling of castoreum is not required, and it may simply be listed as “natural flavoring.”

Image Source: Wikipedia

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6 comments on “Love Vanilla Flavoring? That’s the Sweet Smell of a Beaver’s Backside!”

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Leila P
4 Years Ago

While the FDA has approved this for use in foods, but I'd wager this is something more common to the scents industry. I can tell you that most 'vanilla flavor' - when it isn't derived from vanilla bean, is derived from wood, which is much cheaper than anything you'd milk from a beaver. What a misleading article.

betsy shipley
4 Years Ago

Beaver Gland Castoreum Not Used in Vanilla Flavorings According to Manufacturers Posted on June 17, 2011 by The VRG Blog Editor - See more at: http://www.vrg.org/blog/2011/06/17/beaver-gland-castoreum-not-used-in-vanilla-flavorings-according-to-manufacturers/ This was the answer to a question posed to the Vegetarian Resource Group several years ago. betsy shipley

10 Oct 2013

Thanks Betsy for the link and information :)

4 Years Ago

The worse news, is that they must be keeping these animals in captivity to "harvest" the castoreum!!! What in the hell is wrong with people!!

Camie Rodgers
4 Years Ago

Okay... so, besides being gross, does this mean that beavers are being farmed, raised, bred, etc. to produce this substance?

4 Years Ago

That is bloody disgusting! Not to mention cruel! Thank you One Green Planet for this information. I imagine that plant based/cruelty free, toiletries and vegan foods will not contain this?


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