Where does vanilla extract come from? The disgusting truth

TikTok users were left stunned as a trend recording users reacting after Googling “where does vanilla flavouring come from” went viral.

The shocking truth was revealed to TikTok fans who couldn’t believe what they had been indulging in for so long.

The sweet-smelling and subtle taste of vanilla is used in a variety of different baking recipes and added to coffee.

It’s shocking to learn that something so sweet and delicious actually comes from a beaver’s bum.

That’s right, a beavers bum.

When Googling the burning question that has been on so many people’s minds recently, one of the top results is from National Geographic.

Beaver’s anal glands are the disgusting source of natural vanilla flavouring

An article from 2013 with the headline “Beaver butts emit goo used for vanilla flavourings” explains all.

Here they explain “Beaver butts secrete a goo called castoreum, which the animals use to mark their territory.

“Instead of smelling icky, castoreum has a musky, vanilla scent, which is why food scientists like to incorporate it in recipes”.

The use of castoreum is “generally regarded as safe” by the US Food and Drug Administration.

This isn’t new, with manufacturers using castoreum for the last 80 years, for both food flavourings and perfumes.

Woman applies perfume
Beaver’s anal glands are “milked” to collect the vanilla scent used in perfume

Due to its FDA (Food Additive Status) label, manufacturers do not need to list castoreum as an ingredient, instead, it may be referred to as “natural flavouring”.

In order to gather the castoreum from beaver’s, you have to “milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid” said Joanna Crawford, a wildlife ecologist.

This is rather difficult, so the consumption is small and it is not used in every vanilla flavouring.

In fact, only around 132 kilograms of castoreum is used every year according to National Geographic.

Castoreum is rarely used in food products because there is not enough to go around, instead, it is more typically used for candles and perfumes.

Beaver in water
Natural vanilla flavouring is hard to source and so is limited

If castoreum is not used in food and drink products, where is the vanilla flavouring from?

The majority of vanilla flavourings, including vanilla extracts, is made synthetically.

A synthetic vanilla flavouring is made from vanillin, which is found in vanilla beans.

This provides the signature, sweet flavour of vanilla, which is used a lot more than the natural castoreum.

With the manmade vanilla flavourings on offer, it’s a relief to know we probably haven’t been eating a beaver’s butt goo.

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