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MAJOR STURGERY: A Look at the Past and Present of Farmed Caviar

By November 9, 2018June 22nd, 2021Industry News
sterling caviar

A short quiz, just for you:


1. Pick an adjective:

  1. Extravagant
  2. Sumptuous
  3. Opulent
  4. Precious


2. Pick an noun:

  1. Luxury
  2. Delight
  3. Indulgence
  4. Delicacy




Whatever words you chose, you’re right. These are all accurate descriptions of caviar. Now for the prize. Today, you can add “AFFORDABLE” to the list!

What’s changed in the caviar marketplace?  Read more below…

What happened?

As you likely know, true caviar refers to the salt-cured roe of the sturgeon. Producers of other cured fish eggs such as trout, salmon, and herring e.g., misuse the term liberally. The Caspian Sea, known as the cradle of the caviar trade, is bordered by Iran to the south, Russia to the north, and to the east and west by four former Soviet Republics most of whose names end in stan. The most sought-after sturgeon, namely Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga were all abundant there until commercial overfishing and pollution from industrial and agricultural runoff from the Volga and other rivers brought the population close to extinction. Illegal poaching and smuggling have also taken a heavy toll. As a result of the collapse of the Caspian fishery and depletion elsewhere, CITES, the international commission tasked with policing endangered species, forbade the sale of most wild-caught caviar worldwide.

What’s happening?

The resulting moratorium has been a clear positive, except for the sturgeon fishermen and those implacable connoisseurs who bemoan the loss of all Beluga brunches.  Hello to farmed caviar!

It turns out that many species of sturgeon are ideal candidates for a farmed environment.  Sturgeon are now being sustainably farmed in an ever-increasing number of countries. Major caviar producers are China, the U.S., Russia, Canada, Italy, France, Israel Germany, Poland, Iran, and Uruguay. The species farmed are tightly monitored. For example, the highly endangered true Beluga Acipenser Huso Huso is largely forbidden to commercial farming so as to discourage the passing off of smuggled wild roe as farmed.

In the U.S., California is the largest producer of farmed caviar and Sterling Aqua Farms, the first producer of farm-raised caviar in the world, is also the largest producer of native North American Transmontanas white sturgeon caviar. Pacific Gourmet is proud to say that we have been supplying locally and sustainably harvested Sterling Caviar to the best restaurants and hotels for over 20 years.

Check out some pictures from a recent farm tour of the Sterling Caviar ranch here.

What a great surprise!

Now, ever improving aquaculture and production methods and the increase in farms worldwide have seen the quality and quantity of caviar boom. The resulting increase in supply has brought prices to unheard affordability. This year’s harvest has resulted in a veritable glut of high-grade roe.

For diners who’ve watched longingly as high rollers enjoyed their caviar service, the field is much more level. We’re happy to be able to add AFFORDABLE to our caviar quiz.

Editorial by Pacific Gourmet founder, John Cawley.

Click here to check out all sizes of Classic, Royal, and Supreme caviar available and on sale today!