White truffles are in short supply due to climate change and expanding wine production, and prices are skyrocketing to as much as $5,000 a pound

Waiter shaves white truffle onto pasta for two women sitting at table among group of diners
  • White truffle prices are soaring to as much as $US4,950 ($AU6,615), Bloomberg reports.
  • The price hikes are due to climate change and expanding vineyards taking over truffle habitats.
  • Truffles are one of the world’s most expensive foods because they’re rare and challenging to grow.

Your plate of pasta with white truffles could get a lot more expensive this fall.

According to Bloomberg’s Kate Krader, prices for white truffles have jumped due to a combination of poor weather conditions and shrinking truffle habitats, a cost hike that could make truffle-infused dishes at restaurants much more expensive for consumers.

Bloomberg reports that at specialty food distributor Chefs Warehouse, white truffles currently cost around $US4,000 ($AU5,345) per pound. Truffle supplier Urbani Truffles is seeing prices around $US4,500 ($AU6,013) per pound and at luxury foods retailer Regalis Foods, prices have jumped to $US4,950 ($AU6,615) a pound for higher-end white truffles deemed “extra class.”

Those prices are significantly higher than a few years ago: Vittorio Giordano, vice president of Urbani Truffles, told Bloomberg that the same truffles cost $US1,100 ($AU1,470) or $US1,200 ($AU1,604) per pound in 2019.

At restaurants, those price hikes will likely be handed down to the customer. One chef told Bloomberg he plans to raise the cost of a truffle pasta dish to $US100 ($AU134) – another plans to raise the cost of a truffle, egg, and grits dish to $US275 ($AU367), up from $US175 ($AU234).

While shortages of other products like diapers, computer chips, and furniture have been linked to a surge in consumer demand and snarled supply chains amid the pandemic, white truffles are scarce for vastly different reasons. Truffles, which are a fungi, are traditionally one of the most expensive foods on the planet, Insider’s Charlie Floyd reported. Their short growing season and brief shelf life are part of what makes them so expensive, as well as how they’re harvested: While about 70% are cultivated these days, the other 30% are sniffed out by dogs (before that, truffle hunters used pigs).

But truffles are also challenging to grow because they require a specific habitat – a habitat that is being threatened by climate change and deforestation. Since the 19th century, overall truffle production in France has decreased from 1,000 metric tons per season to just 30 metric tons, Insider reported.

John Magazino, director of national accounts at Chefs Warehouse, told Bloomberg that there’s “a good chance there might not be white truffles in our lifetime.”

“In my daughters’ lifetime,” he said, “I’m pretty sure they’ll be extinct.”