The Most Expensive Holiday Foods

December 4, 2018 by Steven M. Peters

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The holidays are a time for food galore and guilt-free eating. During the last six weeks of the year, diets get forsaken, cheat days become the rule, and people indulge in foods especially prepared for festivities.

Those who have the time to cook for holiday parties can be very creative and make new versions of traditional dishes that will impress friends and family. Others can go online or to their local store and buy them.

But not all holiday foods are created equal. From party planning to picking gifts for relatives, the festive season can be overwhelming and costly. Food can add a lot to the bill, especially if you’re keen on imported delicacies that you may not  find the rest of the year.

To identify the most expensive holiday foods, 24/7 Wall St. compiled price and weight for a large range of popular holiday foods. We obtained for each item prices by three brands or distributors, adjusted each price to the weight of each item, then took the average of the three prices for our ranking. The estimated price per package represents what consumers can expect to find at the grocery store.

Click here to read about the most expensive holiday foods.

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23. Peking duck
> Estimated price per pound: $5.07
> Estimated price per package: $27.99 for 1 frozen duck

You have probably seen or heard of “A Christmas Story,” the classic Christmas movie. Many people not only watch it over the holidays but also try to cook the Peking duck from the famous scene. You can even find instructions on how to cook it on YouTube.

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22. Ham
> Estimated price per pound: $8.52
> Estimated price per package: $99.99 for 1 fresh ham

Ham, cut from the rump of the pig or the back thigh, is popular at Christmas in many parts of the world — including Spain, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines. Americans eat about 318 million pounds of ham between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Glazed ham is especially popular around Christmas.

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21. Mead
> Estimated price per pound: $10.10
> Estimated price per package: $12 for 1 bottle

Mead, also known as the drink of the gods, is a fermented alcoholic beverage. Its main ingredients are honey, yeast and water. Mead may date back to 7000 B.C., making it older than beer and wine. Ancient Chinese pottery vessels have been found with signs of mead fermentation.

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20. Pâté
> Estimated price per pound: $11.99
> Estimated price per package: $5.75 per package

Pâté is a rich paste made of liver, duck, pork, and/or other meats, and sometimes seafood or vegetables. It is often used as a spread on warm toast, in sandwiches, or with crackers and other appetizers. You can easily find jars or tins of several different kinds sold together in one package.

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19. Panettone
> Estimated price per pound: $13.08
> Estimated price per package: $12.95 each

The history of this Italian sweet bread dates back to the Middle Ages when people celebrated Christmas with a bread that was richer than the kind they ate every day. A traditional panettone, filled with a variety of dried fruits, is cylindrical in shape with a domed top, and is always taller than it is wide.

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18. Pheasant
> Estimated price per pound: $13.28
> Estimated price per package: $30 for whole pheasant

Pheasant is a popular Christmas alternative in England and December is traditionally the time to hunt the birds in the countryside. A few years ago, an Englishman who was concerned that many of the hunted pheasants were going uneaten started a new tradition. He launched a program to persuade local hunters to donate uneaten birds to feed the hungry. The program has been very successful. Pheasant is seen less often on dinner tables in the United States, and is almost always farm-raised, as birds wild-shot in the U.S. may not be sold commercially. They are usually sold whole and weigh 2 to 3 pounds.

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17. Gingerbread house
> Estimated price per pound: $14.28
> Estimated price per package: $23.96 for a petite fully assembled Gingerbread House

Consider a DIY gingerbread house instead of a premade one. It could be a lot of fun for the kids, if you have the time to help them out or supervise. A kit will cost about $10 at big discount stores. The price goes up depending on how big the house is and whether it has a lot of ornaments.

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16. Fruitcake
> Estimated price per pound: $15.30
> Estimated price per package: $19.99 for 1 fruitcake

Some argue that the history of fruitcake goes back to Roman times when people mixed barley, pomegranate seeds, nuts, and raisins and ate the combination as an energy snack. Dried fruits became easily accessible in the Middle Ages and made it into mainstream cuisine. Different versions of fruitcake spread all over Europe. Because the ingredients were expensive, it was made primarily for special occasions in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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15. Goose
> Estimated price per pound: $15.32
> Estimated price per package: $89.99 for whole goose

Roast goose has been admired in French cuisine for many years. It has declined in popularity more recently, making room for other holiday staples such as ham and duck. Goose was especially popular around Christmas partly because it is one of the times a year when it tastes the best – geese are fattest in the winter.

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14. Eggnog
> Estimated price per pound: $15.99
> Estimated price per package: $5.24 for 1 carton

Eggnog will get you in the holiday spirit, and you don’t have to break the bank unless you’re buying it for a large group of people. You can buy eggnog ready to be served, but brands vary in prices from about $5 for 32 oz. to $10 for 8 oz., bringing its average price up.

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13. Prime rib
> Estimated price per pound: $16.37
> Estimated price per package: $79.95 for 1 prime rib roast

People tend to save prime rib for special occasions, such as the holidays. It’s not cheap, and it has an unmistakable rich beef flavor. It’s also not common — less than 2% of all beef in the country is classified as prime. The general rule is that one rib bone will feed two people, so if you host eight people, you probably need a four-rib roast.

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12. Peppermint bark
> Estimated price per pound: $22.38
> Estimated price per package: $23.16 for 1 package

This chocolate confection, which generally appears once a year, around Christmas, is many people’s favorite. What’s not to like? It’s basically chocolate and candy canes fused together in sheet form. You can find it made with custom-blended Guittard chocolate and triple-distilled oil of peppermint or with added flakes of sea salt. The dessert is sold in different quantities. Small tins are usually about 11 oz., contain six pieces, and cost around $20.

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11. Prosciutto di San Daniele
> Estimated price per pound: $22.48
> Estimated price per package: $22.99 each

This dry-cured, uncooked ham, usually thin-sliced, is a delicious appetizer during holiday parties. Lesser known than the popular prosciutto di Parma, it is also sweeter and slightly less salty. The way it’s made has not changed for centuries — using only meat from pigs bred in one of ten regions of north-central Italy, sea salt, and fresh air. The microclimate of San Daniele, in Italy’s Friuli region, is ideal for curing the ham because of its salty sea breezes and low humidity. The ham contains no additives, no preservatives, and very little fat.

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10. Assorted Christmas cookies
> Estimated price per pound: $24.40
> Estimated price per package: $20 for 1 tin

Now is the time for cookies galore.The tradition of cookies around the holidays goes back centuries when people celebrated the changing of the seasons from fall to winter. Festivities centered around food, celebrating a time of plenty before the privations of winter. Even when the Christmas holiday replaced many solstice rituals, some old food traditions continued and a bounty of desserts was added to the table. Today, cookies are often shared and used as gifts, too.

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9. Yule log
> Estimated price per pound: $24.72
> Estimated price per package: $39.99 for 1 cake

A chocolate bûche de Noël, French for “yule log,” is a popular Christmas dessert consisting of rolled, filled sponge cake frosted with chocolate buttercream. Bakers in Paris made the cake popular in the 19th century. The tradition of the real Yule Log (as opposed to the pastry) pre-dates medieval times when people in Scandinavia and northern Europe used it to welcome the winter solstice. They burned a log to cleanse the air of whatever bad happened during the year. The ashes were treasured because they were believed to have medicinal benefits and protect against evil.

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8. Shrimp cocktail
> Estimated price per pound: $25.83
> Estimated price per package: $19.99 for 1 package

Shrimp cocktail, also called prawn cocktail, is a crowd-pleaser. Though it’s usually served in individual portions, with the shrimp arranged around a glass of cocktail sauce, it may also be arrayed on a platter with some kale or other green leafs and it’ll make the perfect holiday centerpiece. This makes an easy-to-eat presentation that is ideal for parties. You can find ready-made shrimp cocktail it in various sizes and prices, including just 11 oz. for around $11.

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7. Suckling pig
> Estimated price per pound: $27.19
> Estimated price per package: $249.99 for 1 frozen pig

December 18 is National Roast Suckling Pig Day. A suckling pig is a young piglet, is considered a delicacy because its meat is tenderer than that of a regular pig. It’s a popular food item around the holidays, especially if you’re hosting a big party. But make sure you have a large enough oven.

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6. Champagne
> Estimated price per pound: $35.80
> Estimated price per package: $13.79 for 1 small bottle

Champagne is the traditional drink of New Year’s Eve. According to one theory, the custom dates back to the 5th century when King Clovis, who united the Frankish tribes, converted to Catholicism and was baptized in Reims — which is in France’s Champagne region — using local wine. Sparkling champagne wasn’t invented for another thousand years or so, so the wine would have been still, but the tradition was born. Nowadays, about 360 million glasses of champagne are consumed on December 31 every year.

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5. Scottish Smoked Salmon
> Estimated price per pound: $46.51
> Estimated price per package: $35 for 1 package

Salmon is a staple food around Christmas and Scottish smoked salmon, which has been called the monarch of fish, tops the lists of the best. A royal warrant from the Queen is on every package of smoked salmon from John Ross Jr. of Aberdeen, which is sold in the United States.

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4. Foie Gras
> Estimated price per pound: $57.73
> Estimated price per package: $75 for 1 whole lobe

Foie gras, which is fattened duck or goose liver, is a French holiday tradition. Last year the country even faced a shortage due to a two-year fight against bird flu. The delicacy is controversial in the United States, and was even illegal in California from 2012 until 2015. Animal rights groups are against it because the birds are force-fed to enlarge their livers.

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3. Wagyu Steak
> Estimated price per pound: $222.15
> Estimated price per package: $90 for 6 oz.

Japanese A5 grade wagyu steak is considered the finest in the world. It is also the most expensive. The wagyu are raised in Japan following strict protocols from birth to export. You can buy a “holiday package” in the U.S., which includes filet and ribeye, for $400.

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2. Truffles
> Estimated price per pound: $560
> Estimated price per package: $24.95 per ounce

Truffles are an edible subterranean fungus native mainly to mild regions. There are many varieties, but the two most expensive and sought-after ones are the black winter truffle (Tuber melanosporum) and the white truffle (Tuber magnatum). The latter is found from late fall into early winter primarily in Italy, while the former comes mostly from France and Spain, throughout the winter. There have been many attempts to farm truffles, some of them marginally successful, but the bulk of them are discovered in the wild, with the aid of dogs or pigs trained to sniff them out underground. Black truffles are usually cooked into pâtés or used in sauces, while white ones — which are more expensive and more pungent — are typically shaved raw over pasta, risotto, or polenta.

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1. Beluga Caviar
> Estimated price per pound: $2,256
> Estimated price per package: $61 for 0.5 oz. jar