The Real Reason This Maggot Cheese Is So Expensive

Sardinia, Italy is known for Fregula pasta, fresh lobster (via Eater), roads that almost took George Clooney's life, and casu marzu, which is a contraband delicacy — and maybe the world's most dangerous cheese. 

You might prefer not to know that casu marzu is Sardinian for "rotting cheese" (via Atlas Obscura). Because that's exactly what you'll be eating if you manage to get your hands on some. Adventurers who have been brave enough to try the maggot-infested pecorino will tell you that you should close your eyes when you eat the cheese — not to avoid seeing what you're eating, but so that maggots won't jump into them (via Vice). Because, when you're getting ready to eat the stuff, maggots literally jump off the surface of the cheese and onto everything. 

Yes, you'll have to eat live maggots. Yes, they're crunchy. Yes, they wriggle in your mouth. Yes, it means casu marzu could be the world's most dangerous cheese. The maggots in this Sardinian delicacy apparently produce the toxic compounds cadaverine and putrescine, which can, in turn, trigger serious allergic reactions (via The Outline). Then again, if you don't digest the maggots properly, you may end up suffering from diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, and internal bleeding (via Medical News Today). Other than that? The cheese, supposedly, tastes a bit like gorgonzola with bits of black pepper (via Serious Eats). 

Want to get your hands on some? Get out your checkbook. Casu marzu is startlingly expensive and can cost up to $100 per pound (via Insider Monkey)!

Why people pay big money for maggot-infested cheese

Why is maggot cheese so expensive? 

First, making the cheese itself is extraordinarily time-intensive. According to Atlas Obscura, you've got to make sheep's milk cheese (pecorino). Then you've got to let it ferment. Then, you cut small holes into the fermented cheese and leave it outside so that flies can lay eggs into it. The cheese is done when gooey liquid begins seeping out of it. Because the food is technically illegal, it's hard to get your hands on a recipe. But the HuffPost estimates that the whole process can take up to three months. 

Second, because casu marzu is contraband, it's dangerous to make and hard to track down. Anyone that does make maggot cheese can be fined between 1,500 and 50,000 Euros and sentenced to up to a year in jail. Unsurprisingly, the supply of the cheese is less than the demand for it. That's got to up prices a bit, don't you think? 

Third, and last, taking a maggot-filled bite of casu marzu is an act of resistance. The cheese has become almost inseparable related to the Sardinian separatist cultural identity. Not only this, rumor has it that it's in high demand at weddings because it's also an aphrodisiac. That, alone, might make it priceless.