What do Vanilla and a Beaver's Bum have in Common? November 24 2013, 0 Comments
What do vanilla and a beaver’s butt have in common? If you guessed nothing you would be very, very wrong.
Beavers secrete a substance from their bottoms that’s called castoreum and guess what? It smells just like vanilla and vanilla is one of the most popular scents in the cosmetic and beauty industry. The smell is very widely appreciated by many, from lovers of mild, less assertive fragrances to those who enjoy musky earth tones. It’s used in a wide array of beauty products, including soaps, lotions, and perfumes and in the food industry vanilla is used in almost every baked product as well as other foods and juices.
The beaver's castoreum is non-toxic and according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration it is a safe food flavoring. Manufactures of food and baked products have been using this product for approximately 70 to 80 years in beverages and an assortment of dairy products as well. We have been consuming it even in foods advertised as being naturally flavored which is technically true, I guess???
Castoreum doesn't come from the beaver's anus (a phrase I never thought I'd type), but actually comes from a sac right under the base of the beaver’s tail. Of course you know what else is located right under any animal’s tail, so... anyway... the castoreum, though not secreted directly from the anus does contain traces of urine as well as secretions from the beaver’s bowels due to proximity. Undiluted and direct from the source its not quite as pleasant, but after the secretion has been diluted and mixed with a type of alcohol it then takes on the familiar vanilla aroma.
Castoreum can no longer be used to flavor products labeled vanilla as it is prohibited by the FDA due to false advertising concerns. However, it can and is still used to add flavor to strawberry and raspberry flavored products. The secretion has become quite expensive after years of use and the threat to the beaver population in some countries. Milking the beaver for its secretions is also quite labor intensive, but it is still used privately by some labs and manufacturers in its dried form. There is a lot that passes for all natural these days and technically this product is straight from nature, depending on your taste, maybe just a little too direct. But do not despair Sydelle Cosmetics has products that are all natural and scented from true vanilla bean not the beaver's bottom.