There may never be a stronger case for truth in food labelling than this. You know those mysterious “natural flavors” listed at the end of the ingredients list? For many pastries, cookies and candies with vanilla flavoring, one of those flavors is castoreum, an anal secretion beavers excrete to mark their territory. Diluted in alcohol, it’s a dead ringer for vanilla. It’s also used to enhance strawberry and raspberry flavors, and added to perfumes.
Thankfully, you won’t find castoreum in most mass-produced foods because it’s simply too much of a pain in the butt (couldn’t resist) to produce. Good news for us vegetarians. But the beaver-borne “vanilla” revelation speaks to a larger issue of food labelling. We shouldn’t have to play a guessing game when it comes to knowing which foods contain animal parts. Whether we’re talking about potato chips made with pork enzymes, poultry feathers in our bread, or beaver goo in strawberry pie, we deserve to know what’s in our food (hear that FDA?).