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The Gross Truth About Natural Flavors

Castoreum is a bitter, orange-brown, odoriferous, oily secretion, found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of beavers. The discharge of the castor sac is combined with the beaver’s urine, and used during scent marking of territory. Both male and female beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail.

Castoreum is a product of the trapping industry. When beavers are skinned for their fur, these glands are taken out, and are sold after being smoked or sun-dried to prevent putrefaction…

Well, that’s a relief.

The European Beaver was hunted to near extinction, both for fur and for castoreum, which was also believed to have medicinal properties. The North American beaver population was once more than 60 million, but as of 1988 was 6–12 million, largely due to extensive hunting and trapping. Although sources report that beaver populations have now recovered to a stable level, some experts say that today’s American beaver population is only 5 percent of what it was when Europeans first settled in North America.

Castoreum is used in “high class” perfumery for “refined leathery nuances.” It is also reportedly used in some incense, and to contribute to the flavor and odor of cigarettes. In food, castoreum is used to flavor candies, drinks, and desserts such as puddings.

Grossed out? Horrified that humans think nothing of killing innocent beings so we can dress ourselves in their fur and flavor our candies with their secretions? I have a solution for you: Go vegan – really vegan. Don’t use cosmetics that are made using animal products, read the ingredients on food packages, call customer support when you see those scary words, ‘natural flavors’, and guess what? You’ll never eat anyone’s anal fluid again.

Co-written with M Butterflies Katz

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Image: Flickr – Steve

Read more: Animal Rights, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Food, Pets, Vegan, Wildlife

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Angel Flinn

Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a non-profit educational organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making the transition.


+ add your own
3:39PM PDT on Jul 25, 2012


3:02PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

11:25PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

Yechh. I admit, I do sometimes buy things with "and other natural flavors" on the label, but I always have wondered... 'natural' is a bit vague for a reason.

11:07PM PST on Dec 12, 2011

Yuck! Thanks!

5:23PM PDT on Aug 18, 2011

Amazing. Thanks.

3:36PM PST on Jan 10, 2011

we have chemicals, why don't we just use those? science made us all those yummy artifical things for a reason

12:38AM PST on Dec 5, 2010

A little castoreum must go a long way to be used in all these mass produced items.
A good reminder that flavoring can be about anything.

7:21PM PST on Nov 26, 2010

Usually when we eat things such as cereal or bread there is a certain percentage of the product that is allowed to be made from insect parts!

8:01PM PST on Nov 23, 2010

It's like a conspiracy, isn't there any alternatives that these companies can use - and who was the person who discovered this stuff!!!

4:25AM PST on Nov 17, 2010

Disgusting or not, we've ingested it.

Get over it and don't make the same mistake.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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