800px-Beaver_Yearling_Grooming_Alhambra_Creek_2008

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.

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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.'”

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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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