Do You Have to Kill the Fish to Get Caviar?

If you know what caviar is, perhaps you would also know that it is one of the priciest foods in the world. The caviar price is regularly between USD$50 to $75 per ounce (30g), with the most expensive “Almas” pegged at USD$34,500 per kilogram (approximately 2-lbs 3-oz).

But really, do you have to kill the fish to get caviar? The answer is “No.” Thanks to German Marine Biologist Angela Kohler, there is a way to extract caviar without killing it. Caviar is basically fish eggs (also known as fish roe), from the sturgeon fish family. The reason why it’s costly is simply that sturgeons are raised for 10 or more years before they are harvested (killed) for its role. Caviar is usually served as a topping for blini (Russian pancake), bread toasts, baked potato, with your favourite vodka or champagne, or simply spoon it to enjoy the rich subtle flavour.

Angela Kohler’s innovative way of extracting the eggs is simple. First, an ultrasound is performed to readily view the eggs. In order to induce labour to the fish, a “signalling” protein is given to the fish several days prior to harvesting the roe. After that, the roe is massaged out from the fish’s belly and then immersed in a calcium-water solution, ready for salting, packaging and consumption. This is termed “sustainable caviar” because the fish can then be allowed to go back into the sturgeon farm to produce eggs again during its 60 to 12-year life span. The UK has developed its own “no-kill” sturgeon farm, and the processes can be viewed through this video

There are several classes or types of sturgeons where caviar can be extracted from:
• Beluga, from the southern Caspian Sea, is the most prized for its soft and pea-sized roe. Caviar colour from this kind is from silvery-grey to black.
• Sterlet, from Eurasia.
• Kaluga hybrid, a predatory sturgeon from the Amur River basin.
• Ossetra also referred to as the Russian caviar.
• American Osetra, or white sturgeon, from the Eastern Pacific.
• Siberian sturgeon
• Sevruga, or starry sturgeon.

Incidentally, the sturgeon has been classified under the list of “threatened species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This was initially the case especially when sturgeons were harvested and killed for their role in the past. But that is before Angela Kohler’s amazing discovery of creating “sustainable caviar.” In the market today, this version of sustainable caviar is named Vivace and is sold $125 per ounce. Although this is indeed a welcome breakthrough for the preservation of sturgeon species, some critics like Geno Evans of Anastasia Gold Caviar in Florida, find the commercially sustainable caviar as “too soft” and said, “It wasn’t caviar.”

Caviar is indeed one of the priciest foods in the market. But because of the “no-kill” method that was introduced, harvesting caviar from sturgeon farms opened a new sustainable process without killing the fish that has lived for years, just to produce such tasty delicacy.