Monday, January 30, 2012

The Darker Side of the Truffle Industry

Fresh from Italy's Piedmont region - a gorgeous black truffle

The stunning landscape of northern Italy provides beautiful truffles
Truffles are those heavenly scented tubers plentiful in specific regions of France and Italy. The funghi (yes, as in related to mushrooms...not chocolate truffles) have been used throughout the ages as an aphrodisiac, enjoyed as delicacy, and even used for medicinal benefits. As a lover of all things truffle (just a little bit of my favorite truffled salt can go a looong way with the heavenly aroma) I was lucky enough to see some of the harvesting first hand when I traveled to Italy's truffle and wine mecca in the northern region of Piedmont (pronounced Piemonte in Italian).
A trained dog seeks out the black truffle
Due to the truffle's highly prized value the demand is steadily increasing its market rate and quality black truffles can sell for $250 - $450 a pound! The more coveted white truffle commands an even higher price with prices reaching an outstanding $3,600 a pound. Insane right? Well, apparently this insanity is fostering a dangerous black market trend. Less expensive (due in part to their inferior harvest) Chinese truffles are often being passed off as the more expensive European truffles. Trained truffle dogs are being stolen and people's livelihoods are being threatened. I was shocked when I saw the recent story on CBS about the disturbing trends in the truffle industry.

Take a few minutes to watch the video and let me know your thoughts. This delicacy has driven the market to take desperate measures and it's shocking just how much inferior truffle products are ruining the established vendors who have made their livelihood selling the tubers for centuries.

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