When you get to the point of this post you are not going to believe it. You are going to think that I was somehow duped into accepting the wildest most ridiculous rumour and that I haven’t checked it out thoroughly. You will be wrong.
Those were my exact thoughts when I was first told about this fact: many flavourings, including artificial vanilla and others, are derived from the liquid from the anal glands of beavers.
I know how it looks. It doesn’t seem possible. It’s as if someone said pudding is made from the marrow of horse bones or gummy bears are congealed whale snot. But it’s true. The brown secretion is harvested from beaver colons and then used in flavourings. It’s believed the stuff smells the way it does – pleasant – because of the beaver’s diet of bark and leaves. The upside is that the beaver doesn’t have to die for this extraction to occur. The downside is that because it’s a “natural” substance food manufacturers can get away with calling it “natural” flavouring on the labels of some vanilla and raspberry products. It’s also used in some perfumes.
I don’t know about you but the next time I need some vanilla extract I’ll be looking for “pure” and not “natural” on the label.