Edible bird’s nest refers to the nest produced by several different swiftlet species. Human consumption of edible bird nest used to be a symbol of wealth, power, and prestige, and it has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine dating as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD) and Sung Dynasty (960–1279 AD). In recent years, there has been a growing body of scientific research proving what the Ancient Chinese have always known – that regular consumption of edible bird’s nest is beneficial to good health and vitality.
TYPES OF SWIFTLETS
More than 24 species of insectivorous, ecolocating swiftlets are distributed around the world, but only a few produce nests that are deemed ‘edible’. The majority of edible bird’s nests traded worldwide come from the white-nest swiftlet (aerodramus fuciphagus) and the black-nest swiftlet (aerodramus maximus), whose habitats range from the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean to sea caves in the coastal regions of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Borneo and the Palawan Islands in the Philippines. Although edible bird nest can be found in caves in the wild, the vast majority of edible bird’s nest found in the market today are cultivated in purpose-built swiftlet houses.
CAVE NEST vs HOUSE NEST
Cave nest are harvested mainly in nature caves , since the cave nest is formed by free swiflets, some consider them to be rare, therefore, they are marketed at higher prices. However, the reality is that cave nest may contain pollutants and could contain heavy metals from the environment. House nest are formed in swiftlet houses, therefore, the environment is well under control. Hence the nest produced are protected against foreign environment factors.
Some consumers may perceived cave nest as better than house nest, as cave nest are formed by free, naturally-living swiflets, and are willing to pay a higher price for it. In reality, we should be aware that cave nest generally contain more foreign matters and feathers than house nest. Moreover, cave nest are exposed to the risk of heavy metal contamination from environmental factors. So, consuming cave bird nest may potentially exposed us to contamination risk. The high price for cave nest could be due to the laborious effort and risk exposed by the harvesters.
BLOOD BIRD NEST vs WHITE BIRD NEST
Some consumers may assumed that the red-coloured “blood bird nest” is highly priced because they are formed by swiftlets which vomit their blood to build the nest. There is also a belief that the “blood bird nest” was formed by a different specie of swiftlet which consumes different kind of water and food. Contrary to these belief, swiftlets do not vomit blood, neither do they consume different kinds of water and food. Bird nest absorbs the chemical element from the environment, such as iron from the walls, dirty waters and contamination from the environment. Hence, blood bird nest may be harmful rather than beneficial for human consumption. The nutritional benefit of blood bird nest is not vastly significant, as compared to white bird nest. For commercial gain, there may be unethical vendors who apply chemicals to their natural bird nest in order to gain a higher profit. Consumers has to be vigilant when shopping for a good and safe buy of bird nest.