Is it true that the vanilla flavoring in your food and drinks is derived from beaver butts?
A popular TikTok trend has resurfaced, and this time it involves people spitting out their vanilla lattes rather than learning complex dance moves.
TikTok users are documenting their reactions to learning the dark truth about the origins of vanilla flavoring.
It all started with a video posted by user Sloowmoee in which he instructs people to film their reactions before and after googling “where does vanilla flavoring come from?”
Sloowmoee takes a big sip of vanilla latte in the video before googling the question, looking shocked and shouting, “no more vanilla!”
Where Does Vanilla Flavoring Come From TikTok?
You probably don’t expect beavers to be involved when you google “where does vanilla flavoring come from.” But according to an article on National Geographic, Vanilla flavoring comes from Beaver’s Goo produced in their butt.
Beaver butts secrete castoreum in their goo that the animals use to mark their territory. And that Castoreum is the chemical that gives the pleasing smell of Vanilla.
Castoreum is a chemical compound derived primarily from the castor sacs of beavers located between the pelvis and the base of the tail.
It is frequently a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions, and urine due to its proximity to the anal glands.
Castoreum extract is considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by both the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, described the fragrant, brown slime as having the consistency of molasses but not quite as thick.
While most anal secretions stink due to odor-producing bacteria in the gut. Crawford explained that this chemical compound is a byproduct of the beaver’s unique diet of leaves and bark.
Castoreum has a musky, vanilla scent rather than an icky odor, which is why food scientists like to use it in recipes.
Does The Vanilla Flavor Used In Food industry Comes From Beaver Anus?
Though the secretion of Beaver does have an essence of Vanilla. It is not technically possible to exact that large amount of vanilla flavor from It.
Since Castoreum is difficult to produce, particularly for food processing, and cannot be produced in large quantities at once.
Those in charge of producing the final product do not venture into mass production and only use Castoreum in a few candles and perfume products.
Furthermore, Crawford explained, “You can milk the anal glands to extract the fluid.” “You can squirt out [castoreum].” It’s pretty disgusting.”
Since it is so unpleasant for both parties, castoreum consumption is quite low, only about 292 pounds (132 kilograms) per year.
According to Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, this figure includes castoreum, castoreum extract, and castoreum liquid.
Thus, because of all these limitations, true vanilla is extracted from the seeds of a specific orchid in the Vanilla genus. Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla tahitensis are the two plants whose seed pods are used in vanilla extract.
The majority of commercially available vanilla comes from Mexico, Madagascar, and Tahiti.
How Was Vanilla Flavoring Discovered?
Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, which includes over 25,000 different species(NationalGeographhic).
Vanilla is native to South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, and the Totonacs of Mexico’s east coast appear to have been the first to cultivate it.
When the Aztecs conquered the Totonacs in the 15th century, they brought vanilla. And the Spanish, in turn, brought it with them when they conquered the Aztecs.
According to one source, Hernán Cortés introduced it to Western Europe.
However, it was overshadowed at the time by his other American imports, which included jaguars, opossums, an armadillo, and bouncing rubber balls.
The Aztecs drank their chocolate with a dash of vanilla, and Europeans soon followed. Vanilla was thought to be nothing more than a chocolate additive.
Until the early 17th century, when Hugh Morgan, a creative apothecary in Queen Elizabeth I’s employ, invented chocolate-free, all-vanilla-flavored sweetmeats.
The Queen adored them. By the next century, the French were using vanilla to flavor ice cream, which Thomas Jefferson discovered in the 1780s while serving as American Minister to France in Paris.
He was so taken with it that he wrote down the recipe, which is now housed in the Library of Congress.
Due to its labor-intensive production, vanilla is the world’s second most expensive spice (after saffron).