Why’s that Tuna so Cheap?

I wrote down a quote years ago and it’s never left my side. I think it was from a review of a New York restaurant. The author said Spain is “perhaps the only country in the world where it is desirable to serve food that comes in a can.”

They were poking fun at the restaurant where, in the writer’s mind, the chef should have been more ambitious about cooking than being a good shopper. Well, be that as it may, chances are the chef couldn’t make tuna better than what you get from Spain in a tin. If you’ve had Spanish tinned tuna before, you’ll know it’s something very special. It’s not a poor substitute for fresh tuna. It’s got its own thing going on. For me, it is more rewarding and interesting than the fresh stuff. Given the choice, I’d choose to eat a tin of Ortiz’s tuna over tuna sushi any day.

It may be hard to think of tuna in a tin being worth eight or nine bucks, especially when you find them at the supermarket for a buck. I think we should all be a bit more weirded out by the dollar tins, though. After all, fresh tuna is expensive. They’re only caught wild (we haven’t domesticated them yet) and raw tuna goes for $20-$30 a pound. It’s almost always one of the most expensive fish in the case. Why should it be the cheapest tinned food on the shelf?