The next time you get a whiff of a freshly baked cupcake, just know that it came out of a beaver’s ass. Not the cupcake itself (show me that beaver and I will MAKE IT MY KING), but the fragrance — it’s what beavers use to claim their territory.
According to Time, castoreum is “a fragrant, brown slime that comes from a beaver’s castor sacs” and has been used widely in food and perfume for nearly a century. It’s in everything from booze and baked goods to pudding, candy, gum, and ice cream. (Although take heart: Not everything that smells like vanilla contains castoreum. Our total consumption is only about 250 pounds annually. Two hundred fifty pounds of delicious beaver buttock juice.)
It gets better:
Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions, and urine. “You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid,” [ecologist Joanne] Crawford said. “You can squirt [castoreum] out. It’s pretty gross.”
Gross?! More like delicious! And the best part is, you might not even know you’re eating or spritzing yourself with beaver butt-juice:
Because the FDA considers the ingredient safe, in some cases, manufacturers don’t have to list castoreum on the ingredient list and may instead refer to it simply as “natural flavoring.”
Your Vanilla Ice Cream May Actually Smell Like Beaver Butt, Time.