'They're like gold dust' - cow gallstones fetch up to €35,000 per kilo in Far East
Cow gallstones are being given the kid glove treatment in meat factories - as pristine specimens can rival gold bullion prices and fetch up to €35,000 a kilo in the Far East. However, the caveat is they are extremely scarce.
"They are like gold dust as such but they are really rare," said Paul Daly, from the Irish Casing Company.
"Not every animal has them, maybe more of the older cows have them," he said. "You are talking about grams from an animal. A kilo could take a plant maybe a year, you have to collect them, put them in an area to dry them, they can't crack. They have to be handled with care. They are graded."
The stones are used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of hepatitis and liver and heart-related diseases. It has also been suggested by some elders in the beef game that they are used as an aphrodisiac in Japan.
They have been harvested from old cows since the start of the meat processing industry in Ireland.
Co Offaly-based company Expert Gallstones Trade Ltd has been building a network of suppliers over the past year.
A spokesman said their family has long been involved in the beef trade and they now collect gallstones from factories in Ireland and throughout Europe. They use a special system for harvesting them, with a dry box.
"They are very scarce. You could kill 2,000 animals and find nothing for a whole month," he said. "It is not as simple as people think."