Finches are well known for their seed-foraging skills and hardiness
In a culture that tries to prevent so much waste, we are pretty wasteful. We throw away egg shells that make great compost. Banana Peels that can double as shoe polish. Used coffee grounds that can remove scratches from wooden furniture. But there were, and still are, plenty of creepy, odd, and grotesquely weird ingredients in many of our everyday products.
Bat Guano in Gunpowder
One of the main ingredients in gunpowder is saltpeter, otherwise known as potassium nitrate. Once upon a time, gun powder was not only used for firearms and fireworks but also for cauterizing wounds in the battlefield. It is safe to say that the need for gunpowder was huge. Amazingly, the prime method of making saltpeter was bat guano. Well, bat guano and also horse urine were both used to make gunpowder into the 20th century. The harvesting was simple enough. People would head deep into caves with shovels and dig it up.
Cochineal Bugs in Lipstick and Food
Elizabethan era women wanted sensual red lips like plenty of women in many eras, but would modern women want them if the only way to get them was by smearing crushed cochineal bugs on their lips? Well, that was a little dramatic. The red color actually comes from boiling the bugs alive and crushing the bodies. The result is carmine, the main ingredient in Elizabethan lipsticks. Beauty companies don’t use cochineal bugs anymore. Relief, right? Too bad food companies do. In fact, most companies in need to red food dye use cochineal bugs in everything from candy to Starbucks beverages.
Fish Bladder in Beer Production
Too much yeast in beer is a not good. It makes you all bloated and often sick. Well, the good news for you us beer drinkers (especially Guinness drinkers) is that there is a magical ingredient that limits the amount of yeast in beer and gives it that golden hue, isinglass. Huh, that doesn’t sound too scary. Well, isinglass is fish bladder. Now, I eat fish often. I like fish. But I can’t recall ever wanting to eat fish bladder. Guinness is the largest purchaser of this fishing byproduct though the company is actively seeking an alternative.
Shellac in Jelly Beans
The aesthetically-pleasing shininess of your jelly beans and other candies are not without as appetizing as they are pretty. The substance (often called confectioners glaze) is called shellac and it is made from the excrement of the female kerria lacca insect from Thailand. The only more disgusting than eating dried cochineal bugs is eating the excrement of live bugs. But it is the sacrifice we must make in order to eat shiny jelly beans and candy corn.
Crocodile Dung as Birth Control
This one is a little more disturbing. The Ancient Egyptians needed birth control, and the most effective method was making a suppository out of honey, sour milk, sodium carbonate, and. . . . crocodile dung. Some good news for the Ancient Egyptians, crocodile dung in slightly alkaline thus making it almost suitable as a spermicide. I don’t about you, but the smelling crocodile dung in the moment might serve like an abstinence agent. So, I guess it was effective either way.
Infant Foreskin in Skin Care Products
Perhaps the most controversial ingredient on this list (even more so than crocodile dung) is the secret ingredient in SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum. Now, cannibalism is a really bad thing. So, we never consider to watch our food human body parts. I mean that’s just common sense (unless you are watching NBC’s Hannibal). Do you look at your skin care products, though? Well, your Neutrogena and Nivea don’t contain human flesh, but SkinMedica, Oprah’s favorite beauty company, is not. The secret ingredient in their Essential Serum is baby foreskin. Oprah calls it the “fountain of youth,” but many are cringing at the though of rubbing baby foreskin on your face. Not too far removed from the horrors of Soylent Green, SkinMedica pawns its products at $270 for a 1 oz bottle. I don’t about all you men out there, but I think we deserve a cut of these profits (pun intended).