For over 1,000 years, edible bird’s nests have been enjoyed as a delicacy in China. Made from swiftlet nests, a bird species native to Southeast Asia, authentic bird nests are a superfood packed with health benefits. Edible bird nests are primarily made into soups or drinks with a variety of tasty flavors.
It is unfortunate that because of these benefits and niche quality, the edible bird’s nest market is also overrun with fake producers looking to cash in –– one pound of bird’s nests can sell for more than $4,000 per pound. This profit margin combined with increased global interest in edible bird nests has created a perfect storm for fake bird nests.
So, how should customers navigate this fraught subject? How do you know if a bird's nest is real? And how does one avoid buying fake bird nests? As experts in the edible bird nest industry, Golden Nest is here to help. To assist, we’ve put together a list of things you’ll want to check to determine the real deal from the fraud.
The Difference Between Fake Bird’s Nests and Real Bird’s Nests
Shape and Appearance
An authentic bird nest will come in the shapes of cups, triangles, strips or cakes depending on quality (cups being the highest grade). One will also occasionally find small feathers stuck within the fibers. When soaked in water, authentic bird nests will gradually lose its shape along with the appearance of more pronounced nest fibers. In comparison, fake bird nests will have a relatively uniform, bumpy surface with a slight, medicinal smell.
A great way to tell fake nests from authentic bird nests is the color that appears after soaking. The water left over from a real edible bird nest will be clear. The nest itself will also maintain its color. However, a fake bird nest will show signs of discoloration due to the artificial coloring. One of the more highly prized edible bird nest varieties is the blood nest, a color that’s been falsely attributed to the result of blood being in swiftlet saliva. For this special bird nest, pay attention to the color after the soaking process. An authentic blood bird nest should still be vibrantly red whereas the fake version will stain the water.
Under close inspection, authentic bird nests will have an uneven structure. By comparison, a fake bird nest will have neater and more coarsely distributed nest fibers.
Authentic bird nest will appear semi-transparent compared to a fake bird nest, which will either be nontransparent or even reflective in some cases. This reflective quality of fake edible bird nests is the result of undesirable chemicals.
How to Test for Fake Bird’s Nests
The Crumble Test
A simple way to test the authenticity of your edible bird nests is to crumble it between your fingers. Natural bird nests should break down into a powder-like substance during this process. In comparison, while synthetic bird's nests will emulate the fragility of authentic bird nests, there's one key difference –– fake edible bird nests will break off into chunks instead of a powder.
The Soak Test
A critical part of making edible bird nests into bird nest soup is the soaking process, which usually takes around 1-2 hours. This step is important for the rehydration process that’s needed to properly prepare bird nests for soups or drinks.
First, pay attention to the shape of the bird nest before soaking. Fake nests are more uniform, while a real bird’s nest will transform into a gelatinous, formless shape after about 30 minutes. The fibers of the nest will also still be visible, but not nearly as uniform as when dry. On the other hand, fake bird’s nests will maintain a uniform shape during the soaking process as well as a minor chemical or fatty/fried smell. The surface of the fake bird’s nest will also be bumpy.
Next, the size of the bird nest post-soak. Fake nests don’t expand. However, an authentic bird’s nest will often double in size after soaking. In fact, real nests can absorb up to seven to nine times their weight in water.
Finally, there’s the soaking water. Because edible bird’s nests are made from water-based swiftlet saliva, the substance should mix well with the soaking water. For instance, if you were to stir a bird’s nest while soaking, a bubbly foam would appear on the surface of the water. However, since fake bird’s nests are made from chemicals, stirring a fake bird’s nest in the soaking water will only cloud the water.
How to Choose the Best Bird's Nests
The key to selecting a good bird’s nest is to purchase them from a reputable source. The last thing anyone wants is to spend money only to eat fake bird's nest soup. Not only do fake bird nests lack the nutritional benefits of the real product, they also have an inferior texture.
The critical things to look for when selecting the best bird’s nest is the shape, texture, color and sourcing. The best shape will be either a boat or cup as this means the nests stayed whole and intact during processing. The color should be a pleasant shade of red, golden or ivory white, with minimal feather or other debris. Finally, a good bird nest producer will indicate where the nests were sourced from. Transparency is a good sign as any bird nest producer that avoids giving out clear sourcing information should not be trusted.
Golden Nest: The Industry Leader in Authentic Bird's Nests.
For a good example of the best edible bird nests out in the marketplace, look no further than Golden Nest. Established in 1996, Golden Nest has earned A+ Accreditation with the Better Business Bureau and is the trusted leader for authentic edible bird nests in America. Golden Nest is all about top safety regulations, health, quality along with a meticulous sourcing of natural and organic ingredients.
With Golden Nest products, consumers can rest easy knowing that the hard work of sourcing authentic bird nests has already been done by the company’s experts. For an easy take on traditional bird nest soup, try Golden Nest’s Simply Swift Swallow Bird Nest, which comes in two pieces, prepped and ready to cook. For a modern and delicious take on bird nest drinks, try the Premium Bird Nest drinks, which come in refreshing flavors like Lychee or Red Dates & Goji Berries.