So, I came across this news article about castoreum, a chemical compound secreted by these glands on the bums of beavers. It's used as a vanilla flavor, and the FDA only requires that if it is used, it is labeled as "natural flavorings" because it is NATURAL. My favorite parts of the article: "Only 292 pounds of castoreum are harvested annually because the milking process is uncomfortable for all parties involved."
And this one, which is paraphrased: "I lift the beaver's tail and tell people to smell it. They are grossed out, but I'm like, 'No, it's a beaver! It's different!'" Lol...who lifts a beaver bum and sniffs it?
Good question from my friend Dawne: who was the first person and under what circumstance did they decided this slimy brown substance near the rear of the beaver was awesome like vanilla? I suspect it was from someone who harvested a beaver for either felt, meat, or both...and was all, "Hey, that smells tasty!" Still gross. But I will continue eating vanilla and all vanilla products, castoreum and all. We eat plenty of gross stuff if you think too much about it. So I don't.