The Reason Why Bird’s Nest Remained As One Of The Most Expensive Food Item In The World

Bird’s Nest is one of the most expensive food products in the world.

Often called the “Caviar of the East,” the average bird’s nest can cost as much as $2,500 per kilogram, with some premium types costing $10,000 per kilogram.

Known for their medical and rejuvenating benefits in Chinese culture, many believe that Bird’s Nest is good for health and the skin.

Here’s the reason why bird’s nest is one of the most expensive food in the world.

It’s Swallow’s Saliva

Image: businessinsider.sg
Image: businessinsider.sg

Although the name might suggest it to be made up of leaves and twigs from a nest, these nests are actually made out of bird saliva.

Edible bird’s nest are created by swiftlets using solidified saliva, which are harvested for human consumption.

Thanks to its high nutritional value and exquisite flavour, many people are fans of bird’s nest.

But that’s not why it’s expensive.

It’s The Procedure

Image: businessinsider.sg
Image: businessinsider.sg

The Ida’an people collect bird’s nest from the Madai caves and have been doing it for centuries.

These collectors risk their lives to scale heights of more than 500 feet to pick out the nests with no safety equipment besides a helmet.

There have been reports stating that some collectors never returned from the journey into the cave. If you thought this is bad, wait till you read more.

The collection is 3 times a year

Image: businessinsider.sg
Image: businessinsider.sg

This dangerous process takes place 3 times every year, in the spring, summer and autumn after the birds rebuild their nests.

Each nest also takes 30 to 35 days for the birds to build. Younger men will climb the outside of the save with ropes that they secure near the cave’s roof to conduct this tedious process.

Then, they’ll drop down the ropes to the cave floor through an opening which the men inside the cave will take and tie to handmade bamboo rattan ladders and poles.

These ladders are then hoisted up to the cave for collectors to climb up to.

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Harvesting has to be quick but careful

Image: businessinsider.sg
Image: businessinsider.sg

The collectors have to harvest before the birds lay their eggs to avoid damage, or the birds won’t lay them again for the remainder of the year.

Collectors also have to be careful not to pick the nests too quickly because bird’s nest that isn’t fully developed cannot be sold. They will conduct this process when the female birds go foraging for food during the day.

The laborious cleaning process

Image: businessinsider.sg
Image: businessinsider.sg

The bird’s nest consists of bird’s saliva conjoined with feathers. These black and awfully dirty nests need cleaning before they can be sold. Commercial cleaners often use bleaching agents to speed up the cleaning process, while they were picked out with instruments back then.

The type or grade of bird’s nest depends on the type of bird and diet.

There are tons of bird nest types, depending on the type of swallow and the diet of the bird. They differ in colour from white to dark brown.


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But the saddest part? The workers who risk their lives collecting this valuable ingredient aren’t the ones making the money.

The profits go to China

These nests are exported to China before being sold. In other words, the majority of these profits go to China, and not the workers who collect the nests.


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Yup, just like blood diamonds. Just more palatable. Literally.

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