Have you ever been on a truffle hunt? Do you savor the memories of truffles shaved over your pasta or risotto? Are you a dog lover? If any of these apply, then this episode was made for YOU!

EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed author Rowan Jacobsen to talk about his book, Truffle Hound. Jacobsen spent two years on the hunt for this “inspirational fungus” with its seductive scent. He learned a lot about the business of this gourmet delicacy, but also lots about culture, cooking, and of course, dogs. Let’s see what you took from this episode. Use the prompts below and share your thoughts in the comments, or use them to start your own conversation- preferable over a yummy bowl of tagliatelle al tartufo!



1- Why are truffles so expensive? Why do white ones cost more than black? What role do dogs play in the market for truffles?


2- How has “truffling” become a tourist attraction, and how does this experience compare to a REAL hunt? Should truffle hunters be mad or glad about the rise of fake tourist “hunts”? (Bonus if you use a supply and demand graph in your answer!)


3- Why do most people think they’re getting a great bargain with truffle oil? Truffle oil presents an economics puzzle: does introducing this super cheap ersatz version undercut the real thing or make the real thing more valuable?


4- Roberts reads the following quote from Jacobsen’s book: “Take a wild resource and enough time, and the locals will work it out, no government required.” What does this mean? How do truffle hunters manage to avoid the tragedy of the commons?


5- How did the influx of Chinese “fake” truffles affect the larger truffle market? What other disruptions are occurring in the market? (Hint: trees and cell phones are both mentioned in the conversation.) To what extent do you think this market will become increasingly “democratized”? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Explain.