It’s hard to enjoy the finer things in life when the finer things are so expensive. We’ll skip the caviar and stick to our good ol’ beef jerky. Wait, that’s expensive, too?! What’s going on here?
The little black eggs, which are traditionally the salt-cured roe of the sturgeon, can cost as much as $300…an ounce. Other fish-egg pastes that are labeled caviar may be cheaper, but they’re not necessarily the eggs of a sturgeon. Only caviar that came from a sturgeon can be rightfully labeled “caviar.” And the best caviar, historically, comes from the beluga sturgeon, which are found only in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Roe is harvested from sturgeon that have reached maturity and full adult size—about 4,000 pounds. It’s so expensive because those gigantic fish are not only rare, but hard to catch. They’re also endangered, which ups the price a bit.
In short, this spice, used in Spanish and Middle Eastern dishes, is expensive because its rare. The usable part, or the saffron thread, is a small part of the purple flower of the saffron plant. Those little threads in a jar are the stigma plucked off the end of the red pistol, the plant’s female sex organs. Each saffron flower contains a maximum of three threads. Result: It takes around 75,000 saffron flowers to produce a pound of saffron threads.
It’s just a few ounces of meat, so why does an ounce or two of the stuff cost seven or eight bucks? Well, because it works out to being a pretty good price…for steak. Good pieces of beef are used to make the jerky, which loses almost two-thirds of its weight when dehydrated. All of a sudden, 12 ounces of steak becomes just a few ounces of beef. Factoring in labor and production costs, the price is still consistent with regular, fresh meat…on an ounce-by-ounce basis, that is.