Sustainability puts caviar back on menu
Once the preserve of Russian tsars and British royalty, caviar was described by the great Renaissance writer François Rabelais as the finest titbit in the world. But recently it has been disappearing from dinner menus, amid concerns that traditional methods of harvesting the roe involve killing the majestic sturgeon that produce it.
Now, however, ethical caviar, produced without harm to the fish, has made the luxury permissible once more. Mottra Caviar, based near Riga in Latvia, has 50,000 sturgeon on its farm. Its director, Sergei Reviakin, said he has seen a 40 percent increase in sales this year.
“After sturgeon became endangered, many chefs stopped using caviar,” he said. “We are now teaching people about it.”
He said the UK is one of his firm’s biggest markets, along with Sweden, France, Poland, the Netherlands and Germany.
Unlike traditional caviar production, which kills the fish, the sturgeon are “milked” by human massage along their body to produce eggs. The fish are moved from warm to cold water for the three months before being milked, so the sturgeon feel by instinct that it is time to hatch, as the move to colder water mimics nature. In the 1980s, more than 1,000 tons of caviar were processed worldwide each year. Now, that figure is estimated to be about 120 tons for farmed caviar, Mr. Reviakin said.