Depending on the grade and perfectness of the bird’s nests you buy, the price of each nest can set you back by a pretty penny. The price of bird’s nest has actually grown faster than inflation, especially after China lifted its import ban for bird’s nest in 2017. Its lowest price of RM1,300.00/kg, several years ago, is but a distant memory now, with prices starting from RM8,000.00/kg. The rarest type of bird’s nest, the red or blood bird’s nest, fetched an astounding price of approximately RM20,000.00/kg in 2019!
In comparison, the average annual income for Malaysian households in 2019 is just RM37,044.00 a year. This means a kilogram of raw bird’s nest can easily exceed the annual salary of around 25% of Malaysia’s households! It’s clearly a financial prize and luxury to afford. How valuable is it, in monetary terms, compared to other luxury items around the world, per kilogram in 2019?
For the sake of fairness, the following criteria are applied to curate this list:
- as bird’s nest is an ingredient, it shall be compared with raw ingredients;
- the raw ingredients shall be available worldwide;
- the average price of the ingredient is used for comparison;
- the prices shall be in MYR, per kilogram, as recorded in 2019.
(We know you want to know this, so here’s an early bonus fact: gold cost around RM189,000.00/kg in 2019, so it’s still significantly more expensive than bird’s nest, but remember, we’re doing apple-to-apple comparisons here!)
“All that glitters is not gold”, so the saying goes, but that doesn’t stop us from liking gold! Gold-garnished food is a fad nowadays, made possible thanks to edible gold leaves. Originally mixed in liquor in Europe, or coating sweets in India, today it makes Instagram-worthy bling food possible. They’re usually sold by sheets, but are also sold as flakes. 1g of the stuff sells for over RM400.00, which makes 1kg worth RM400,000.00!
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 0, Competitors 1!
Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese
This gourd-shaped cheese literally means “horse cheese”, but that’s a misnomer as it’s actually made from the milk of the Italian Podolico cow. It gets its price from the limited number of free-range Podolico cows, the low milk yield from the breed, and its cave-ageing process, although it is also aged by hanging pairs of cheeses over wooden boards or beams. Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese cost approximately RM650.00/kg.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 1, Competitors 1!
You probably didn’t think that a nut would make the list, did you? Macadamia trees are indigenous to Australia (it is naturally found there). These rich, crunchy, buttery nuts are expensive due to the long maturity period of the trees, around 7-10 years, the manual harvesting of each nut, and limited harvest seasons a year. Like bird’s nest, the price of macadamias have increased over the last few years due to rising consumer demand, commanding around RM150.00/kg.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 2, Competitors 1!
Jamon Iberico de Bellota
This ingredient comes from the Spanish Iberico pig, a swine that has small litters, yields less meat per pig, and is slower to mature, but nevertheless prized for its sweet, floral, earthy, nutty flavour and fatty texture. New legislation requires Iberico ham to be labelled according to the percentage of the pig’s Iberian ancestry (purebred vs crossbred), and if these purebred pigs were fed bellota acorns, which leads to a soft and creamy texture, the price the ham fetches gets higher still! A whole leg can cost around RM20,000.00, but in kilograms, approximately RM2,200.00/kg.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 3, Competitors 1!
Continuing our exploration of meats is another ingredient that has shot to international stardom in the past decade: Japanese Wagyu beef. Wagyu literally means “Japanese cow”, and it’s a popular luxury beef cut alongside Kobe beef, also from Japan. These cows live a pampered life before they reach consumers, with some enjoying constant air-conditioning, massages, beer, and top-grade food like olives for years. The price of a whole cut can start from RM2,000.00/kg, though the premium Miyazaki wagyu or A5 Olive wagyu can cost more.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 4, Competitors 1!
Luwak coffee is a special coffee made from beans that have been digested by the civet cat, the luwak in Indonesian, granting it the nickname of “cat poop coffee”. These civet cats eat raw coffee cherries, supposedly nitpicking for the cream of the crop, and because the beans (the seeds we grind) are indigestible, they are expelled by the luwak’s body then collected, cleaned, and processed to make coffee. Luwak coffee grounds cost approximately RM2,200.00/kg.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 5, Competitors 1!
You might be surprised that such a common spice is actually one of the most expensive ingredients in the world, but it’s true! While vanilla flavour is one of the most common in the world, real vanilla beans are much rarer. This fruit of the vanilla orchid is very time-sensitive: vanilla orchid flowers bloom for only 12-24 hours each year, pollinated by hand (if not by a specific bee species), then allowed to fruit, harvested, cured, sweated, preserved, and wrapped in wax paper in a months-long process. Its price peaked at around RM2,600.00/kg in 2018, and in 2019 dropped slightly to RM2,200/kg in 2019.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 6, Competitors 1!
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, even more expensive than vanilla beans: it cost around RM13,000.00/kg in 2019! This is because it has very low yield, needing around 165,000 saffron flowers to obtain one kilogram, in addition to a delicate, manual, and costly harvest of the three stigmata of each flower, which blooms for only one week every year.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 6, Competitors 2!
Considering bird’s nest nickname as the Caviar of the East, a comparison against the the value of real caviar is a must! Caviar technically refers to salt-cured roe of fish, although the ‘true’ luxury version traditionally refers to roe harvested from Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga sturgeons, depending on your country. Malaysia has successfully started producing our own sturgeon caviar, which cost around RM27,000.00/kg in 2019.
Verdict: Bird’s Nest 6, Competitors 3!
Considering all the ingredients above are regularly listed as the most expensive ingredients in the world, bird’s nest is faring quite well in the value scale! Since you only need to consume 3g a day, there’s no need for you to buy 1kg worth of bird’s nests, but just 3g of nests is hard to buy. A convenient alternative is bottled bird’s nest drinks, which allows you to enjoy an optimum amount of bird’s nest without cooking it for hours. GeGe’s Freshly Boiled Bird’s Nest even makes it as fresh as possible with our made-to-order, next-day-delivery* mode of operations. Fresh is always best!