Why Would They Risk Their Lives To Harvest A Bird’s Nest Made Of Saliva?

Bird’s Nest Collectors

At more than $2500/Kg, bird’s nests are among the most expensive food consumed by humans, feeding a growing market worth $5 billion a year. There are two kinds of nests: white nests made up mostly of saliva and black nests with plant materials and feathers mixed in. White nests are the most valuable. They are generally made by swiftlets that nest deep inside the caves and are ideally collected before a female lays her eggs. The nests are harvested by men, BAREFOOT AND with a flashlight on his head, a bird’s nest collector ties himself to a rope line hanging across the cave and then moves up and down the rock face to show how he harvests the nests. Without any safety gear, the collector can boast of a brave heart – something that’s very important for this job.

He harvested the nest and didn’t have any protective equipment.

Why People Risk Their Lives To Harvest A Bird’s Nest Made of Saliva

The belief

I must confess the first time I heard of edible nests I thought it was a hoax. Is somebody seriously willing to pay for a bowl of soup made from hardened strands of bird saliva? Nests are like a Bentley and do not come cheap, and the swiftlets that produce them sacrifice more than their saliva to keep the wheels turning in the billions of dollars bird’s nest trade. Swiftlets’ nests are a delicacy which are out of the reach of most people. The reason they fetch such a steep price lies in deep-rooted personal beliefs, according to food experts. Especially significant is the belief, mainly among Chinese people, that birds’ nests improve health and heighten longevity.
The explanation for the belief is that swiftlets never roost anywhere except in nests they have built themselves which they apparently consider to be pure as they are built using their own saliva.

Bird’s nest soup

Big Money for Bird’s Nest Soup Nests

– The saliva produced by these swiftlets to form their nests is considered one of the five elite foods highly prized; In fact, while the price of gold and other commodities has fluctuated throughout the last century, the price of edible birds’ nests has simply grown steadily higher. From US$10 a kilo in 1975, prices soared to US$400 in 1995. In 2002, a kilo cost US$1,600 (RM5,600) and today, the nests can go for up to US$2,700 (RM9,450) a kilo!
– A kilogramme of top quality, unprocessed nests (which works out to about 90 to 120 nests) fetched between RM4,500 ($1280) and RM6,000 ($1,700) in 2006. After processing, retail prices went as high as RM15,000 ($4,300) to RM25,000 ($7,150) per kilo.
– Previously, only royalty could enjoy this delicacy. Nowadays, everyone can consume birds’ nests, so there is a huge demand. Studies show that birds’ nests can benefit pregnant mothers and are also an aphrodisiac!

Stages of making the swiftlet nests and swiftlet breeding until the swiftlet nests are ready to be harvested. A. Flap where smear the swiftlet nest

Collecting bird’s nest brings profit

The nests are usually harvested three times a year. The first harvest – in late March, around 45 days after the nests are built – yields rather white-looking nests. The colour of the nest becomes greyish in the second collection around about a month later. In the last harvest, the nests turn pink with clots of red in them. They are called red nests because of the blood stains from the birds’ excessive discharge of saliva.
Collecting birds’ nests can be lucrative, but is tightly controlled. This job has not really gone out of fashion, because more teenagers are interested as it helps them earn extra. They can earn up to Bt10,000 per harvest without having to invest anything. They can also pick up tricks of the trade from old and experienced collectors. They not only gathers the balinsasayaw nests but cleans them as well of impurities accumulated inside the caves. A kilo of this delicacy can fetch a price of as much as P170,000 or $3,400. Also, the price of each nest depends on its quality. A fresh one will be white, while an old one will be black. The quality of the nest also relies on the cave’s humidity – too humid, it will not be good, if the wall is dry the nest will be good.

The nests from the swallow are harvested by the exceptional climbers

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