Most Expensive Food?

GNC

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#1
Mythconceptions in the latest FT poses the question, how do you judge the world's most expensive food? Whose word do you take for it? What are the criteria? Is it really white truffles, for example? Anyone have any idea?
 
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#9
Yep. They're in supermarkets now.

I first saw these (cognac, vodka, liquers) in enormous magnum-sized bottles on the top shelf of an off-license in the Agar Grove area of Camden. In my naviety it took me a while to realise they were there to appeal to wannabe gangsta types.

Any Russian oligarchs - ie. genuine gangsters - in the surrounding postcodes would have them delivered from Fortnum & Masons, naturally.
 

EnolaGaia

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#10
To focus on the price one can charge for a food (or anything else ... ) implies giving the economics of its supply chain primacy in differentiating expensive foods from ordinary fare.

My point is that supply chain economics may be as important a factor as the food per se in justifying a high price.

The one factor that seems to be associated with super-expensive foods is rarity or scarcity. In some cases, this rarity / scarcity has as much or more to do with the supply chain as anything else.

In some cases, rarity is imposed by focusing on one particular source or sub-species of a given food item that is generally obtainable from multiple similar sources. Caviar (in general) isn't all that cheap. The most expensive caviars are varieties uniquely derived from a particular fish population or a particular feature (e.g., fishes' age).

At the downstream end of the supply chain there are foodstuffs that are costly because they are the last specimens of their final / processed production cohort. Wine represents the paradigmatic example of pricing driven by end-product rarity / scarcity. There aren't many examples of this sort of end-product specimen scarcity driving price points.

Most of the foods touted as 'most expensive' are costly owing to constraints or overhead costs farther upstream in the supply chain. These influential factors can be of different types, such as:

- Absolute rarity - A very limited overall supply, regardless of any other factor

- Growing / nurturing overhead costs - Lots of expenses in simply generating the stuff, as in exotic Japanese steaks from pampered cattle

- Collecting / harvesting overhead costs - It takes lots of labor in risky settings to gather the birds' nests for birds' nest soup

- Temporal constraints on collecting / harvesting - Both vanilla and saffron can be harvested only during a narrow time window each year

- Production overhead costs - For example, items that must be aged for long periods require storage, etc., investments above and beyond what pertains to most such items

- Distribution / dissemination constraints - Black chicken is readily available at 'common chicken pricing' in Malaysia, but isn't exported worldwide owing to concerns about spreading bird flu. Some caviars are hard to obtain (in part) because of Iran's relative isolation vis a vis trade sanctions / restrictions.

Anyway ... I don't think there's a single clear answer because there's a variety of factors that may be in play.
 
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#11
Good analysis. Obviously, up to a point, a thing (including a food item) is 'worth' what customers can be persuaded to pay for it - up to the point that they sense they're being robbed and put their wallets away. And yet people are often happy to pay over the odds for foods that reflect a higher social status, whether rightly or wrongly - the journey of the oyster from neolithic necessity to posh treat being one example.

But no one would argue that some foodstuffs can't be grown intensively or harvested mechanically: if you're gathering saffron or truffles you need to do it the hard way. There's no substitute for a pig and some nimble fingers.

I see now that last sentence sounds very wrong.

Am I right in thinking tea still needs to be harvested by hand? Yet it's as cheap as...tea. Economies of Scale, I suppose.
 

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#12
Good analysis. Obviously, up to a point, a thing (including a food item) is 'worth' what customers can be persuaded to pay for it - up to the point that they sense they're being robbed and put their wallets away. And yet people are often happy to pay over the odds for foods that reflect a higher social status, whether rightly or wrongly - the journey of the oyster from neolithic necessity to posh treat being one example.

But no one would argue that some foodstuffs can't be grown intensively or harvested mechanically: if you're gathering saffron or truffles you need to do it the hard way. There's no substitute for a pig and some nimble fingers.

I see now that last sentence sounds very wrong.

Am I right in thinking tea still needs to be harvested by hand? Yet it's as cheap as...tea. Economies of Scale, I suppose.
The only worthwhile expensive consumable I'd get excited about if I could afford it would be old school wines ... the rest of it seems to consist of gimmick gold leaf plated lobster, rare caviars, rare coffee beans that have been shat out of a cat, rare coco chocolate etc ..

My Dad bought a bottle of port (I think) that was 1930's dated about 25 years ago .. he was hosting a party, didn't like it (the drink), gave it to us youngsters and we finished it off by swigging it from the bottle.
 
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#13
It's true that fine wines are generally better than coarse wines, up to a point. Some of the most eye-openingly outstanding bottles I've sampled are hardly what you'd buy to have with a spag bol on a weekday night (unless money were no object), yet hardly in the super-expensive category. I think the idea that the French are genetically programmed to be wine snobs is nonsense; I've had Vin de Table from rural restaurants to urban supermarkets that was enjoyable, totally Gallic, but as rough as fuck anything. There's nowt wrong with it, and I don't see anyone turning their noses up at proper West Country cider.

I'm pretty sure I can't detect much difference between 'good' and 'bad' port and can take it or leave it (nice at Christmas with a bit of cake). Champagne is a closed book to me as I don't much like the stuff.

I have noticed (without turning this into a booze thread) that cheap gin (a deliberately cheap drink, obvs) and vodka are fine, and cheap brandy not tooo bad, whereas cheap blended scotch is often horrible.
 
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JamesWhitehead

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#14
I gather that China has a tradition of treating certain teas as precious, vintage goods. Speculators invest in them in the same way Westerners treat fine wines. :btime:
 

GNC

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#16
But no one would argue that some foodstuffs can't be grown intensively or harvested mechanically: if you're gathering saffron or truffles you need to do it the hard way. There's no substitute for a pig and some nimble fingers.

I see now that last sentence sounds very wrong.
According to the FT, it sounds wrong because pigs have been outlawed in many places as truffle finders, and now the searchers use dogs, basically because when a pig finds a truffle, it eats it, while a dog will leave it for its owner.
 

James_H

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#20
Surely some illegal meats have to be up there. I saw tiger wine for sale in the north of Burma in a BBC news spot.
 

GNC

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#21
Surely some illegal meats have to be up there. I saw tiger wine for sale in the north of Burma in a BBC news spot.
I hesitate to ask (and even more to Google), but what part of the tiger is turned into wine?
 

Roland Deschain

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#27
By weight, I always thought it was saffron, used in tiny amounts to colour and add fragrance to paella etc.

It is graded, of course, so the little pots of it I pick up, now and then, in B & M Bargains, are the lumpfish end of the market! :buck:
Friend of mine was married to an Iranian emigret and the family used to send over ingredients. He had so much saffron he used to give me huge packets of it.

They are separated now, but I did try my best to keep them together , y'know for the sake of their cat LOL.

To be serious I dont think it cost anything like as much as it does in the UK.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#29
Provenance! We are talking, are we not, of prices? I know I can get it in B.& M.! Weight-wise it is still quite dear.

If we grow it ourselves, it will not count! Story of the Internet and the collapse of prices generally, I suspect. :p

Meanwhile, if tea counts as a foodstuff, my bet is still on aged Pu-Ur Teas.
 

Dr_Baltar

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#30
By weight, I always thought it was saffron, used in tiny amounts to colour and add fragrance to paella etc.
Saffron's relatively cheap by weight at about $2,300/lb. Iranian Beluga is around $18,000/lb. However, the easy winner are Italian white truffles. They recently set a record when 1.9lbs sold for $85,600 at auction in November last year. That's a touch over $45,000/lb.
 
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