The edible birds' nest boom in Indonesia and South-East Asia

Craig Carpenter Thorburn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    The nests of the edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus spp., Apodidae: Collocaliini), constructed entirely of hardened saliva, have long been a highly prized delicacy in China, and are reputed to have a number of beneficial medicinal properties. Swiftlet nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, sometimes referred to as the caviar of the East. Recently, the trade in edible birds nests has expanded rapidly to meet the demands of an increasingly prosperous consumer society in China. Investors erect special buildings with interiors created to resemble the limestone caves naturally inhabited by the swiftlets, transforming the skyline and ambiance of towns across Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and especially Indonesia, source of around 80 per cent of the global nest supply. Focusing primarily on Indonesia, this paper presents an overview of the birds nest trade, exploring some of the drivers and impacts of this latest round in the long history of domestication.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)535 - 553
    Number of pages19
    JournalFood, Culture & Society
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Cite this