Nowadays, there’s a market for anything. And I don’t just mean the weird stuff you find in the “Health and Personal Care” section on Ebay. You can find pretty much anything online, including all kinds of gross liquids that come out of living creatures. I’m talking about spit, venom, blood…even semen. And some of it is mind-blowingly expensive. So go grab a sick bucket and join me on a journey into the world’s most expensive animal fluids.
Number 10: Donkey Milk – $231 per gallon
The humble donkey might not sound too glamorous, but famous figures like Napoleon to Pope Francis have sworn by donkey milk’s health-giving properties. It’s low in fat, high in vitamins and contains elements to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
The reason it’s so expensive is simple: donkeys produce a lot less milk than cows or goats to start with. A gallon of donkey milk will set you back well over 200 dollars, and a kilo of donkey cheese can fetch over a thousand! The cheese is far more expensive, since it takes 25 litres to create a kilo of cheese.
As appetising as it sounds, donkey cheese won’t be finding its way into your favourite burger anytime soon -and is currently only produced in small batches by a single master cheesemaker from Serbia. Since donkey’s milk doesn’t have enough casein to make cheese, they experimented and created a special formula partly mixed with goats milk.
Cleopatra is even said to have bathed in donkey milk every day, and many have wondered if that was the secret to her legendary beauty. But if you feel like trying this yourself the bad news is a bathtub full of donkey milk would cost about 20,000 bucks in today’s prices -so unless you’re the Queen of Ancient Egypt you might want to stick to water.
Number 9: Human blood – $1,500 per gallon
Whether its for emergency transfusions, medical research or extracting valuable plasma – human blood is always in demand and one of the most expensive liquids. A car crash victim might need up to 100 pints of the stuff to save their life, and hospitals are constantly battling blood shortages. There’s even a new trend of wealthy older businessmen in Silicon Valley buying and injecting themselves with blood from younger donors, in a Vampire-like attempt to fight aging.
The California-based start-up Ambrosia– named after the drink of the Gods in Greek mythology – sells shots of blood for $8,000 a pop. Whilst there are reports these blood transfusions can have health-giving properties, so far it just feels a bit creepy.
But with blood in such high demand it’s easy to understand how the global trade in blood is worth billions of dollars every year. But where there’s money there’s crime – and there have been reports of illegal blood farms popping up in India and other developing countries. These shady businesses range from selling unscreened and possibly infected blood to hospitals, to kidnapping and harvesting blood from their victims.
Number 8: Insulin – $9,400 per gallon
Insulin is an essential hormone that we all need to survive – and unsurprisingly – it’s very expensive. It controls the way our bodies deal with sugars, and allows our cells to properly convert food into energy. The pancreas in our body produces insulin, but people with diabetes – around 450 million people worldwide – often need to take insulin pills or injections to aid their body in the absorption of glucose.
In the 1920’s American pharmacist Eli Lilly was the first to commercially extract insulin – directly from huge piles of leftover animal parts he’d bought from butchers and abattoirs.
These days, it’s possible to synthesise insulin in a lab, but extraction from animals like cows and pigs still happens. Despite being a very commonly used medicine, insulin is still very difficult to produce, and the price has been rising steadily over recent years to reflect growing demand.
Number 7: Swiftlet saliva – $37,782 per gallon
Coming in at around 4 times more expensive than liquid insulin…bird’s spit. You might wonder why something that serves no useful purpose is so much more valuable than an essential medicine used by millions of people every day. The answer lies in Southeast Asia, where bird’s nest soup is a popular delicacy and eaten by millions of people in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and elsewhere. Yum.
In the wild, Swiftlets live in caves and rocky islands – and build tiny nests out of pre-digested food and dried saliva. Enterprising humans will then harvest their nests and sell it on to prepare a delicious, gloopy soup.
Whilst they’re usually white, the most prized nests are red, sometimes called ”blood” nests, from the red-nest Swiftlet, which typically sells for double the price of its lighter counterpart.
Food critics have described birds-nest soup as slimy and tasteless, but that hasn’t reduced its popularity. Sky-high demand for bird’s nest soup has led to the familiar problems of counterfeits, bad business practises and environmental damage. Still though… if it’s that delicious, it must be worth it…right?
Number 6: Horseshoe crab blood – $60,000 per gallon
The horseshoe crab is a bizarre, prehistoric animal whose biology has barely changed in 450 million years. These living fossils have bright blue blood, due to proteins that contain high levels of copper.
The blood of this unique crab contains amoebocytes – a miraculous and strange natural defence that reacts to bacteria by forming a tough layer of gel around it. The second a microscopic intruder enters the body of a horseshoe crab, it’s blood clots up and neutralises the threat.
Because of this unique property, horseshoe crab blood is used in medical research to test for tiny amounts of toxins in new medicines – with half a million crabs caught every year for this purpose. Researchers drain 30% of their blood, bottle it, then release them back into the sea – a process that leaves the vast majority of crabs unharmed.
Its high price comes from the fact it’s so time-consuming to harvest, and in such high demand by the medical field.
The FDA requires testing of all new medicines – a time-consuming process that requires testing on millions of rabbits. So, if you’ve ever had any kind of medical treatment – or are a rabbit – then you very likely owe your health to this strange scuttling creature of the deep. So next time you visit the doctor, take a moment to think of the humble horseshoe crab. Thanks, buddy.
Number 5: Bear bile – $90,678 per gallon
Now if harvesting crab blood didn’t make you feel sorry for animals, then wait until you hear about bear bile. According to traditional Chinese medicine, bear bile cures everything from hangovers to epilepsy and even cancer. There’s no solid evidence for any of this, but that doesn’t stop bile farmers in China and Vietnam catching wild bears and extracting the fluid from their gallbladders whilst they’re still alive.
These bile farmers live in remote parts of Asia and operate with little to no regulation. Very often they keep bears in tiny metal cages -sometimes for decades – and use makeshift tools to siphon the bile directly from the bear’s internal organs.This gruesome practise is done without anesthetic or maintaining proper hygiene, and causes the bears huge amounts of pain.
Even though 87% of people in China disapprove of the bile trade, it isn’t illegal. Clearly, there are still too many people who are willing to pay top dollar for this grisly tradition.
Number 4: King Cobra Venom – $153,000 per gallon
King Cobras are among the most feared and deadly snakes on the planet. Their venom is one of the most expensive animal fluids. It contains a cocktail of biotoxins that spread rapidly around the body, attacking the nervous system and causing respiratory failure and death.
A single bite from an adult King Cobra can kill a 120,000-pound elephant in just 3 hours. If one bit you, you’d have no more than a few minutes to find help as your body locks down around you.
So why on earth would people want to collect this stuff? Especially if to extract it you have to catch a cobra and squeeze the venom out of its fangs – all whilst saving yourself from its bite. The answer lies in the way cobra venom works. Over millions of years of evolution, cobra venom has evolved to contain highly specialised toxins that attack specific molecules – often the same molecules that modern medicine wants to target. So, by harnessing the power of King Cobra venom, scientists hope they can engineer these venomous toxins to fight diseases – turning a deadly poison into an effective modern medicine.
And they’ve already had some success. The FDA has approved several drugs that come from animal venom, and they’re already being used to treat conditions like high blood-pressure, heart conditions and diabetes.
But as the fastest-acting in the snake world, King Cobra venom has an even brighter future ahead of it. Research is underway to create better, stronger drugs with less side effects, and we owe it to this surprising and fearsome snake.
Number 3: Bull semen – $545,520 per gallon
OK, this is where this article gets really interesting. Cattle farmers are always looking for ways to increase the quality of their livestock, and that means constantly breeding bigger, stronger cows that make more milk or juicier beef. And when you take a multi-billion-dollar industry like beef and dairy, that makes farmyard fornication BIG business.
Depending on the breed of the bull, its health and family history – a tiny shot of prize bull semen can easily be worth 60 big ones.
Collecting the stuff is no mean feat in itself, with farmers well-qualified to help their bulls with a bit of closet frisbee. With a bull’s beef-stick measuring up to a meter long, I think most people would agree these farmers have earned their money.
But when bull splooge is this valuable it makes an attractive target for thieves. A gang of bonk juice burglars struck a farm in Minnesota in 2015, making off with a cool $60,000 worth of prime-quality nut butter.
Chief Deputy Mark May, of Mower County Sheriff’s Department, said the stolen sperm was stored in a container “kind of like a milk jug”. That would’ve made for an interesting police chase.
Number 2: Racehorse semen – $6,921,000 per gallon
Sorry folks, it’s another semen one. But this time it’s from the world of horse-racing, long the favourite hobby of Kings, Queens and the mega-rich. Like cattle farmers looking for that prime beef, racehorse breeders focus on one thing –the search for the fastest racehorse to hit the track. To boost their chances of taking home the prize, racehorse teams will selectively breed the fastest prize-winning horses in the hope they’ll pop out a champion.
Wealthy racing teams will sell a few minutes of horse hanky-panky to the highest bidder. In such a competitive sport it’s no wonder the prices can reach dizzying heights.
In fact, the money these super-stud horses can generate from the dirty deed is often far more than the money they earn winning races. The famous British thorough-bred horse ‘See the Stars’ has been valued at over 125 million dollars, and charges up to 95,000 dollars for a romantic encounter round the back of the barn.
Number 1: Scorpion venom – $39,000,000 per gallon
Like King Cobra venom, scorpion venom is highly sought after by corporations and medical researchers all over the world. Venom from deadly creatures like the scorpion could one day provide humankind with a cure for cancer or create side-effect free painkillers that could replace opioids.
Researchers are looking into ways of using scorpion venom during surgery to more effectively pinpoint the location of tumours. The potential for venom-based medical treatments is huge, but why are scorpions over 250 times more valuable than King Cobras?
The answer is simple economics. Deathstalker scorpions have their venom milked for science by hand – carefully, of course- and produce no more than 2 millilitres at a time. So, to get a gallon you would need to milk a scorpion 2.64 million times – or milk 2.64 million scorpions once each, up to you.
Not only that, but the chemicals in scorpion venom break down really fast. So to collect a decent amount you’d need to freeze it straight away. And even then, researchers need it as fresh as possible so there’s no guarantee your hard work would pay off.
In short, scorpion venom is so astronomically expensive because it’s dangerous and downright difficult to get. But hey, if you’re looking for some animal goo to invest in – there’s still bull sperm and bird spit, right? Any takers?
So, was the cost of any of these expensive animal fluids surprising to you? Are you now going to get into the animal harvesting game? Let me know in the comments down below. Thanks for reading!