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.”