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Sustainable Farmed Caviar Offers Several Advantages over “Wild” Caviar

The highly distinctive, rich bursts of flavor and delightful texture offered by caviar have long made it the quintessential culinary symbol of luxury.  The delicate, delectable pearls of sturgeon roe literally pop with flavor and have delighted the palates of the wealthy for centuries.

Procuring wild sturgeon roe to make caviar has always been a time-consuming, costly process, and except for a brief period when American caviar was plentiful, the delicacy has always been priced accordingly.  Unfortunately, despite its high price, caviar is such an indulgent, nearly ideal blend of flavors and texture that it has always been remarkably popular with those who are able to afford it.  Relentless demand, overfishing and pollution of their natural habitats have caused the near-extinction of wild sturgeon species throughout the world.

Fortunately for caviar connoisseurs, improvements in sustainable aquaculture have made it possible to raise sturgeon and produce superb caviar in an economically viable manner despite the depletion of the world’s wild sturgeon population.  A handful of producers throughout the world, including California’s Tsar Nicoulai Caviar and Uruguay’s Black River Caviar, employ the latest in sustainable sturgeon farming techniques.  While these two companies are certainly in the forefront of the sustainable, farmed caviar movement, companies in Spain and France are also involved.

Osetra Caviar

Although Tsar Nicoulai and Black River both employ sustainable sturgeon farming methods, the two companies raise sturgeon in different ways.  For example, Tsar Nicoulai produces its superlative osetra American caviar from the roe of farmed native California sturgeon.  In compliance with the principles of Organic Food Production and Organic Food Processing, Tsar Nicoulai does not use fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, ionizing radiation, biocides, pesticides or bioengineering at its sustainable sturgeon farms, but it does feed wholesome, organic food to its sturgeon.  The company’s fish swim in pure, artesian well water, free of pollutants.  Its California Estate Osetra is one of the freshest caviars available and rivals wild caviar in flavor, texture and overall quality.  Some of the world’s top chefs buy caviar from Tsar Nicoulai and proudly serve it in their haute cuisine restaurants.

Black River Caviar, on the other hand, produces world-renowned caviar from Siberian sturgeon raised from fertilized roe imported to Uruguay.  Black River prides itself on its “wild-raised” sturgeon farming techniques, where the sturgeon live within unspoiled environmental conditions that closely replicate what they would experience in the wild but without the presence of toxic pollutants.  Black River also feeds its sturgeon an all-natural, organic feed.  The company’s efforts primarily concentrate on recreating “life in the wild” for its sturgeon, from the beginning of the life cycle until the moment the roe are harvested.  The result is caviar that is neither wild nor farm-raised.  Instead, it is uniquely – and sustainably – “wild-raised.”  Black River’s osetra sturgeon caviar is almost indistinguishable from wild osetra.

The caviar industry’s shift to aquaculture, coupled with restrictions on commercial fishing, resulting from the endangered status of all sturgeon species, provides a “breather” for the world’s wild sturgeon population. It could potentially allow it to rebound while still permitting the production of high quality caviar.  For example, the sustainably farmed American caviar produced by Tsar Nicoulai is some of the highest quality osetra caviar in the world.

Restrictions on commercial sturgeon fishing, together with import restrictions on Caspian and Black Sea caviar, have also had the effect of increasing imported caviar prices.  Those who wish to buy caviar are increasingly turning to sustainable, farmed caviar for several reasons.   It enables them to continue enjoying superb caviar without needing to pay the inflated prices now associated with imported wild caviar, and it allows them to continue to savor their favorite delicacy without putting additional pressure on the depleted wild caviar population.

In addition, those who buy caviar produced in a sustainable manner also enjoy health benefits.  Unlike the heavily polluted waters of the Caspian Sea, the environment that sustainably farmed sturgeon live within is pollution-free.  It stands to reason that caviar from sturgeon living in fresh, free-flowing, unpolluted water would be much healthier to consume than caviar from sturgeon living in waters polluted with toxic substances.

2 comments to Sustainable Farmed Caviar Offers Several Advantages over “Wild” Caviar

  • Janet

    Looking forward to serving caviar and champagne on Christmas Eve. Glad to know that it is being produced in a sustainable manner.

  • Your descriptions and photographs really help me understand what my options are–I can’t think of another place I would go for caviar and several other products you offer.

    Thank you for making research and selection so easy!

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