TikTok has always been a hub for fun challenges or quirky dance routines. Well, have you ever thought about how TikTok could actually impart some education as well? About two months ago, a viral TikTok user Sloowmoee illuminated his followers when he told them to Google where Vanilla flavouring comes from. It was amusing to watch him discover this truth while sipping a vanilla latte. Certainly, his reaction was hilarious when he screamed, "No more vanilla!"
This video gained huge popularity and several people hopped on the train. They began filming their reactions to the same question of finding out where vanilla flavouring comes from?
Where does vanilla flavouring actually come from?
You will be bewildered and completely mind blown to find out that a chemical compound utilised in vanilla flavouring and perfumes is obtained from the anal glands of beavers.
Yes, you absolutely did read it right!
Vanilla flavouring can comprise of castoreum, which traces its origins from a beaver's castor sacs, aka in simple words their balls. These castor sacs are found exactly close to the beaver's anal glands right between the pelvis and base of the tail. They are essentially a mixture of gland secretions and urine.
However, this process is complicated as a live beaver has to be milked in order to retrieve the substance. So to achieve this, the beavers are either sedated or used when these animals are no longer alive.
A 2018 Vice investigation confirmed this fact that beavers use the "yellowish oily fluid” to define their territory and the delicious vanilla scent is obtained from the beaver's diet.
The biggest question is, how was this discovered?
Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, literally explained the process to National Geographic. His actual words were, "I lift up the animal’s tail. I’m like, 'Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum.' People think I’m nuts. I tell them, 'Oh, but it’s beavers; it smells really good.’"
So do we actually consume castoreum retrieved from the beavers in our everyday life?
Well, it is interesting to note that a variety of vanilla products available today have been swapped for the synthetic kind. Hence, they no more are prepared using castoreum. This is also to make it vegan, kosher and minimize the costs of production along with a sustainable attempt to preserve the population of the beavers.
Currently, the synthetic version of vanilla that adds the flavour in vanilla extract is obtained from the organic compound present in vanilla beans. Hence, it is used more than the natural extracts. Further, artificial vanillin is prepared either from guaiacol (an aromatic oil usually derived from guaiacum or wood creosote) or lignin, obtained from the bark.
University of Hertfordshire's Centre for research published an article in 2019 which studied Topical Drug Delivery and Toxicology. This research found that "synthetic vanillin accounts for about 94% of all vanilla flavouring used in the food industry (37,286 tons), with natural vanilla extract accounting for most of the remaining 6%".
Hence, definitely, its a relief for all of us that there is only a very tiny possibility of us intaking beaver anal juice through the latte’s we cherish drinking!