Food has value in that it costs something and it helps you grow and live. For 99 percent of the Earth’s human population, acquiring food is a trade-off between what we can afford to spend and how much we need (or want) to eat. But the mundane reality of that experience blinds us to the fact that beyond the generic nutrition choices we spend our lives grappling with in the supermarket, there are luxury foods so rare and expensive that we have no access to them and probably aren’t even aware they exist. Here are a few food items that you probably won’t see in the supermarket any time soon.
Yubari King melons
The Yubari King melon is a cantaloupe grown in the small Japanese town of Yubari. A former coal mining town on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, its income is now almost entirely derived from its melon industry. And while the headline “former coal miner has great melons” might sound like evidence of urban decline, in this case it is quite the opposite. The Yubari melon is a particularly fine variety that has become a favorite choice for gift-giving during the summer holiday season. The finest examples—perfectly round with a smooth rind—are particularly prized and are often sold for many times the price of an ordinary melon. The first melons to become available each year are sold at a public auction, with prices jumping even higher.
An average non-Yubari melon might sell in the supermarket for 500 yen, while an average Yubari might sell for 15,000 yen. A premium Yubari sold at auction can go for much, much more. In 2013, a pair of Yubari melons were sold at auction for 1.6 million yen, or $15,730, and that’s not even the record—in 2008, a pair sold for 2.5 million yen. It’s hard to imagine how anyone can justify spending that much dough on a couple of boob metaphors, and if it happened anywhere other than Japan, the whole event would probably be shut down on the assumption that it was a poorly disguised drug deal.
Ayam Cemani chicken
Chicken is the original cheap white meat, eaten everywhere and in everything. Chicken is so synonymous with white meat that any exception to that rule is automatically exotic and premium, even if it tastes exactly the same. And the Ayam Cemani is definitely the exception. Possessing a genetic trait called fibromelanosis that results in a higher than normal pigmentation, the Ayam Cemani chicken is completely black. And this color isn’t just feather-deep. Every inch of this chicken is pigmented a dark black. Its feathers, its beak, its skin—even its internal organs and bones are all a deep black.
A native of Indonesia where it is believed to possess mystical powers, the chickens are now hard to get in the U.S. due to the restrictions imposed to halt the spread of avian flu. However, one farm in Northern Florida specializes in rare chickens, including the Ayam Cemani. Despite the fact that these particular birds would be relatively affordable in their native Indonesia, one of them is not about to become the protein in your next stir fry, because prices start at $200 for an unsexed juvenile and climb rapidly from there. A juvenile of known sex will set you back $400 (if they have any), and according to Yahoo Finance, a full-grown adult could set you back a clucking incredible $2,500.
Have a cup of coffee in the morning and you probably won’t be surprised if you need to poop ten minutes later. You probably don’t think about the relationship between coffee and bowel movements very often, but in at least one case it has unexpected and counterintuitive effects. The Asian palm civet, also known as the “toddy cat,” is a tree-dwelling jungle cat that has a taste for coffee, but not in hot liquid form. It likes to pluck coffee cherries from the bushes and eat them. The cherry pulp is digested by the toddy cat, but the coffee bean isn’t. It passes right through the digestive tract to be excreted. On the way through, however, the bean is exposed to various enzymes that change the composition of the bean and supposedly improve the flavor profile in the process.
After the beans are pooped out, they are collected and processed as normal, and their now-improved flavor means they can be sold for a premium. Current prices are around $250 for 12 ounces. How did anyone ever figure out this might be a good idea? According to Time magazine, Indonesians working on coffee plantations were forced to find a new source of coffee beans when the plantation owners sold all their harvested beans overseas. The Indonesians got a surprisingly great cup of coffee in one of the biggest “in your face” moments in the history of the human race.
Most people have probably heard of caviar; James Bond used to eat it all the time. From down here at the bottom of the ladder, all caviar might seem equally exclusive, but when you’re in among the big fish, there’s a clear hierarchy. The term “caviar” is broadly used to describe fish eggs from a number of species, but true caviar only comes from sturgeon living in the Black and Caspian seas and is known by several names, the most famous of which is Beluga. True caviar can be further divided into various qualities as determined by its size and color, but at the very top of the pile is the extremely rare Almas caviar.
Almas caviar eggs appear large and very pale and are only produced by albino sturgeon that are over 100 years old. As you might expect, there are not many centenarian albino sturgeon in the world, which partially explains the price tag. If you could find a shop selling this stuff, and if they let you in the door, expect to pay over $25,000 for 2 pounds of the stuff. It does come in a very nice 24-karat gold box, but that may be small consolation when you realize you’ve just shoveled the cost of a decent car down your throat. And unless you can start a civet coffee knockoff business, there’s no secondhand market for your poop.