Finance and Business

Why Puffer Fish Is So Expensive | So Expensive

You’ve probably heard of fugu, the deadly puffer-fish
delicacy served across Japan. The Japanese eat 10,000
tons of the fish every year, but in high season, it could
cost you $265 per kilo. So what makes this dish so expensive? This video contains footage
of a fish being killed. There are over 120 species of puffer fish. 22 different kinds are approved by the Japanese government
for use in restaurants, but one is more prized and
more poisonous than the others: torafugu, or tiger puffer fish. Wild torafugu is often found
at high-end restaurants, where it’s served as a
perfectly thinly sliced sashimi, deep fried, and even used to
make hot sake called hirazake. Yamadaya has been serving
puffer fish for over 100 years. Their fugu is caught in southern Japan and airlifted alive to
their Tokyo restaurants. Sourcing the fish can be tricky. In Haedomari Market, the
fugu is auctioned off using a bag and hidden hand signals. Each potential buyer puts their hand in the bag and makes their bid secretly before a successful bidder is chosen. When selling such a dangerous
food, safety is paramount. In 2018, when a supermarket accidentally sold five packets of the fish that hadn’t had the
poisonous liver removed, the town used its missile-alert
system to warn residents. The tetrodotoxin found in fugu
is more toxic than cyanide, and each year about 20 people are poisoned from badly prepared fish. It takes a lot of skill
and training to prepare the fish safely and to know
which parts are poisonous. The poisonous parts can vary by species, and hybrid species are appearing now that are even harder to tell apart. One of the hardest things
to distinguish between can be the female fugu’s ovaries, which are extremely toxic, and the male’s testicles,
which are a delicacy. The Japanese government tightly control who can prepare fugu, and chefs need to take an extensive exam before they’re legally allowed to serve the fish. This rigorous regulation means that, while the fish can be lethal, far more people die from eating
oysters than fugu each year. All of the skill and training that goes into preparing this fish
increases its price. The fish is killed seconds
before preparation, and while the process looks gruesome, as the muscles continue to spasm, the fish is technically brain dead. This method of killing the fish means that the meat
stays fresh for longer, and at Yamadaya, the fugu is aged for 24 hours before it’s served. So what does it actually taste like? For how transparent it
is, I didn’t particularly expect it to have such a chewy texture. It really is much chewier than I expected, but it’s really a very subtle taste. It’s just a really fresh,
sort of clean taste and really, really nice. Narrator: There’s
another reason tiger fugu is getting more expensive: overfishing. Tiger puffer fish is near threatened, and in 2005 the Japanese government limited its fishing quotas and seasons. And another popular edible
species across Japan, the Chinese puffer fish,
has declined in population by 99.9% over the last 45 years. Farmed versions of these
fish are much cheaper and many more affordable
chain fugu restaurants are starting to appear, but the farmed version
is difficult to raise, and Japanese consumers say it just doesn’t taste as good. Wild fugu’s high price guarantees that it’s safely prepared
by an expert chef, and when you’re dealing with
a potentially deadly fish, that price is reassuringly expensive.
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