Beaver Butt Goo Used for Vanilla Flavoring
Flickr/thecocoacakeryA beaver cake...with beaver flavoring?
Don't let anyone ever tell you that Fox News doesn't break important stories. In an Oct. 2 exclusive headlined, "Beaver butts emit goo used in vanilla flavored foods," Fox peels back the lid on the beaver vanilla-scented butt goo scandal. (Actually they "borrowed" the story from National Geographic.)
Castoreum, used in vanilla-flavored foods and scents, comes from a beaver's castor sacs, located between the pelvis and the base of the tail of one of the world's largest rodents. We'll give you a moment to think about that.
According to Fox, because of its "proximity," the slimy brown substance is often mixed with anal gland secretions and urine.
"It smells really good," said Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, who told National Geographic she enjoys sniffing beavers' butts.
Beavers use the brown slime, often compared to thin molasses, to mark their territory with a delicious scent reminiscent of baking cookies.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists castoreum as a "generally regarded as safe" additive, and manufacturers have been using it extensively in perfumes and foods for at least 80 years, according to a 2007 study in the International Journal of Toxicology. They call it "natural flavoring."
It is used in baked goods, "frozen dairy," soft candy, pudding, beverages (alcoholic and non) and chewing gum, among other food products.
How is castoreum harvested? The poor beavers must be "milked."
"You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid," Crawford told Nat Geo. "You can squirt [castoreum] out. It's pretty gross."
Less than 300 pounds is collected a year because the process is no fun for anyone, least of all the beavers, who are known for their sharp teefs (they are anesthetized first).
Seriously, stop molesting the beavers!
So yes, odds are you have unknowingly enjoyed beaver bum goo. Many times.
Government food people, just because something is "safe" doesn't mean that it isn't "incredibly gross." The public has a right to know if its food products contain slimy brown secretions from beavers' butts, even if weird lonely scientists think it smells delicious. When you stop goofing off and get back to your offices, please start labeling it accordingly.
Get the Squid Ink'd Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly food newsletter, which features top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips and a link to our print review.