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If you’re feeling guilty about your latest visit to a sushi bar or an Italian eatery, allow us to assuage your conscience. In the grand scheme of things, your food spending is probably a lot more modest than you might think.
To give you some perspective, let’s take a tour of the world’s most expensive food items. A few of the entries may surprise you.
1. Foie Gras
Foie gras, or “fatty liver,” is a controversial delicacy. It traditionally requires locking a young duck or goose in a cage to prevent movement, then using tubes to force feed it. The process causes hepatic steatosis, a disease that enlarges and fattens the liver.
The dish usually costs around $100 per pound, but humanely prepared versions are even more expensive. One Spanish farm that prepares the liver without force-feeding sells a single small jar for $220.
2. White Truffles
White truffles are one of the priciest ingredients in the world. They only grow for a few months out of the year in specific parts of Italy. They also grow underground, which means truffle hunters need highly trained dogs to sniff them out.
Because of the extremely limited supply and the hard labor that goes into harvesting them, white truffles cost a whopping $300 per ounce. It’s probably best to stay away from them while we’re in a recession.
3. Wagyu Beef
You’ll be hard-pressed to find more valuable meat than authentic Wagyu beef. American regulations let many vendors call their steak Wagyu, but most American “Wagyu” comes from a different breed of cow. It has a different flavor profile and marbling.
The real thing only comes from specific cow breeds native to Japan, and the cattle-raising process is both highly regulated and sophisticated. You’d have to shell out roughly $200 per pound for the genuine article.
Saffron is a uniquely valuable seasoning that you can only harvest from the crocus sativus flower. Not only is the plant rare and hard to grow, but each one yields a minute amount of saffron. You’d need thousands to collect enough to season your dinner.
In addition, the flowers are so delicate that you can only harvest them by hand, and you have a short window to do so once they bloom. As a result, saffron can cost as much as $1,500 per pound. Dave Ramsey would not approve.
5. Bird’s Nest Soup
Bird’s nest soup is another controversial and expensive dish, mainly because of the hazardous collection process required to prepare it. The main ingredient is the nest of the swiftlet bird, which you can generally only find in mountaintop caves.
Not only do harvesters have to brave dangerous climbs just to reach them, but they must also pick nests whose eggs have already hatched to get the best price. That ranges between $5,000 and $10,000 per kilogram.
6. White Gold Caviar
You don’t need anyone to tell you that caviar is an expensive delicacy, but white gold caviar is on another level. Also known as Strottarga Bianco caviar, these fish eggs come from the incredibly rare albino sturgeon.
Walter Grüll, a fish farmer in Salzburg, Austria, is one of the world’s few suppliers. He and his son mix the eggs with edible gold leaf, then sell the result for a truly astounding $200,000 per kilogram. It has to be delicious, but maybe don’t take on that much debt.
7. Iberian Ham
Iberian ham is another highly valuable meat, with a single leg going for as much as $4,500. Like Wagyu beef, it comes from a specific breed known as the black Iberian pig, which only lives in regions of the Iberian Peninsula.
The pigs get to roam freely, and regulators make sure each one has acres of grassland filled with acorns to sthemselves, contributing to the animal’s unique flavor. After being slaughtered at 15 months, the pig meat undergoes a curing process that lasts for years.
8. Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is a unique variety of honey that comes from New Zealand. Praised for its delicious flavor and exceptional health benefits, it’s also surprisingly expensive. It can cost up to $99 per 100 grams, which is more than 100 times the price of regular honey.
Unfortunately, the manuka honey supply is extremely limited. Not only is it only harvestable in New Zealand, but the flower that generates it blooms for a short time in areas that are often inaccessible except by helicopter.
9. Densuke Black Watermelons
Last but not least, the Densuke watermelon grows exclusively on the island of Hokkaido. Unlike other melons, these have black rinds and are virtually seedless. The fruit’s flesh is also exceptionally sweet compared to more mundane versions.
Because of their unique aesthetic, appealing flavor, and limited supply, Densuke watermelons cost around $250 each. However, they can be even more expensive, as one sold for over $6,000 in 2008.
Nick Gallo is a Certified Public Accountant and content marketer for the financial industry. He has been an auditor of international companies and a tax strategist for real estate investors. He now writes articles on personal and corporate finance, accounting and tax matters, and entrepreneurship.