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Vanilla Cakes And Ice cream; Do You Know Where The Flavoring comes From

26 November 2020 Blog

Thinking of enjoying a  desert of vanilla cream cake or vanilla Ice cream? Well I hope this does not ruin your appetite but its good you know that while most of vanilla extracts and vanilla flavored things come from vanilla pods, there are non-plant ways of creating artificial vanilla flavorings.

A chemical compound used in vanilla flavoring and scents comes from the anal glands of beavers.

Castoreum is a substance that is produced by a beaver’s castor sac, which is found between the pelvis and the base of the tail.

Beavers use this substance, which is usually brown and sticky, to mark their territory. The vanilla scent is often attributed to the animal’s diet of bark and leaves.


Is modern day vanilla made using beaver anal secretions?

Internet fact checking site Snopes  gave the claim that castoreum is a commonly used food additive a rating of “mostly false”.

The website states: “The use of castoreum in common food products today is exceedingly rare, in large part because collecting the substance is difficult (and therefore expensive).”

The website explains that the total annual national consumption of castoreum, castoreum extract and castoreum liquid combined is only around 292 pounds, “which works out to an average of less than a millionth of a pound per person in the US”.

Approximately 20 million pounds of vanilla naturally harvested from real vanilla beans every year.

“Depending upon as scare a substance as castoreum to flavor the ice cream and candy found on store shelves would create nationwide shortages of those items and drive their prices up beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest of customers,” Snopes says.

In 2019, Professor Chilcott told the academic website The Conversation: “Beavers can heave a sigh of relief.

“Their contribution to the food industry now accounts for a tiny fraction of natural vanilla flavouring and tends to be limited to luxury foods and beverages.”

In 2011, the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) asked five companies that produce vanilla flavourings if any of them used castoreum in their products – to which all five replied that they did not.

The companies told VRG that castoreum is not used today in any form of vanilla sold for human consumption, with one company stating: “[Castoreum] is not a common raw material that is used, and we don’t use it, so I can safely say that our natural vanilla flavours do not contain any animal juices.

“All vanilla extracts are free of it, too, wherever you go.”

Why do we use vanilla flavoring in cakes and icing?

When you’re making baked treats of any kind, whether it be cakes, cookies, brownies or whatever else you’re whipping up, you’re always bound to see vanilla listed in the ingredients.

Chef John Demetrios, pastry chef of a two Michelin star restaurant in Stockholm called Oaxen Krog told Huffington post  “I like to think of vanilla as a spice that enhances sweetness – the way salt brings out the best in savory ingredients.

“Vanilla adds aroma in baked treats as well as custards and creams. It helps compliments the flavors of eggs and sugar incredibly. Many chocolate producers add vanilla to their finished products, purely to give a more rounded feel on the palette.”


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