If you have ever tasted a truffle dish or seen it in the menu then the first thing you may have noticed is its price. Truffles are a rare and edible type of fungi mushrooms, but they grow differently from regular mushrooms. Truffles thrive more in the dark, so they are often considered “underground” mushrooms. There are several different species found in different parts of the world, but the most common ones would be the black and white truffles.
Truffle prices can vary based on the rarity of the species and the growing season. According to Francesco Sparvoli, who co-owns a truffle distribution company, the average prices are $250 for a pound of summer black truffle, $350 for a pound of Burgundy, $800 for a pound of winter black. The most expensive variant would be white truffles or Alba, which can cost $2,000 to $4,000 per pound.
One of the highest prices paid for Alba truffles was 75,000 euros for 850 grams, which was granted to the winning bidder of the White Truffle auction in Italy in 2017. The white truffle is said to be the most valuable as it lacks an outer shell, making it highly vulnerable to weather conditions.
For just a pound of truffles, these prices are certainly close to being absurd, so you may be asking: Why are truffles so expensive? First, truffles are extremely difficult and nearly impossible to grow. They are not like regular plants that can easily be planted and harvested as the location must have very specific conditions. Truffles thrive in moist and dark locations, and tend to grow more favorably around the roots of trees like pine and oak. To add to this, they have short seasons but grow extremely slowly, making it difficult to yield any truffle in the first place.
Since truffles need to grow in a highly specific environment, it is impossible to recreate the proper combination of climate, soil, trees, and overall conditions. Essentially, this type of fungi is only naturally growing, so the fact that they need perfect conditions to thrive makes them extremely rare.
The next challenge concerned with truffles has to do with finding them. Given that they grow underground, they are not as easy to harvest as other plants. Thus, truffle companies typically rely on what they call hunters who have dogs with a sharper sense of smell to detect where truffles can be found.
One the truffles are harvested, there is yet another challenge as they lose a percent of their weight each day. This time restriction makes it necessary for distributors to process and ship the truffles immediately, retaining as much of its weight as possible.
Overall, truffles are so expensive because they require a labor-intensive process to cultivate and find. They are rare, difficult to grow, hard to find, and time-sensitive, so putting all these reasons together, it is not hard to see why the fungi comes with a high price tag. That said, some people find it to be priced too high, while others believe that it is worth the price, especially given its aroma and taste.