“I love the story about this place in Leeds that does this… I think it’s really important for the sustainability of the Caviar industry that there has to be a change...”
Matt Burgess, Caravan Restaurants
Despite a worldwide ban on wild caviar in 2006 following a crash in Sturgeon stocks, 85% of all sturgeon remain at risk of extinction, making them more critically endangered than any other group of species according to the IUCN.
After all, markets dictate. The rarer the fish, the higher their value to poachers, and so the trade continues irrespective.
Though sturgeon caviar facilities have been established worldwide to provide a sustainable option and remove the burden from the wild stocks, the method used to obtain the eggs is a cause for concern for animal rights and cruelty activists.
Without going into detail, normal Caviar production results in the death of the fish. To reach Caviar production targets between now and 2020, it’s estimated that 3 million mature Sturgeon will meet their end.
This is clearly unsustainable, and prompts two questions.
The first is - where will these millions of fish come from? Though farms exist, this is way beyond the global capacity. And stocks are nowhere near robust enough to cope with anything remotely like such demand.
The second, crucial question, and the one of most concern to us - why do 3 million fish need to die?
4 methods exist which avoid the death of the Sturgeon to remove the eggs.
The first is a medical caesarean, however mortality rates remain high following surgery.
The second, known as “the snip”, involves cutting the muscle and massaging the eggs out. However again, post-op infection rates are high and sadly many of the fish don’t survive.
The third method involves the removal of the eggs as part of the natural spawning process, after which the eggs are pasteurised.
Although similar in terms of ethicality, the pasteurisation process does have an effect on the egg’s structure, resulting in a Caviar which is either much softer or much firmer than traditional Caviar. The heat applied also removes valuable proteins and liquids and, some say, alters the taste.
We are genuinely proud and humbled that we were chosen to help pioneer a prestigious and unique patented process devised by Prof. Dr Angela Koehler of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.
Dr Koehler is a marine biologist and ex-toxologist. She told civileats.com that it was her experience on a tour of a sturgeon farm in Iran which made her determined to find a cruelty-free alternative.
““They brought in a huge female wild catch. They anaesthetised it by a blow on the head, cut it open, and there were 7-8 kilos of Caviar inside. They said, ‘this Caviar is too mature to sell,’ so they discarded the whole fish, the Caviar, everything,” Köhler recalls.”
Based on a long study of the Sturgeon, Angela realised how profoundly the seasons and water conditions affected them. She developed a process which allows the eggs to be gently and naturally released without putting the fish through any stress, and without losing the egg’s structure when it touches water.
The method relies on highly controlled conditions, expert husbandry knowledge and methodically correct timing, and produces a superb, particularly clean and pure quality of Caviar.
This means that our KC Caviar doesn’t require preservatives such as Borax, which is a common addition to traditional Caviar. Nor do we use a heat treatment with chemicals to harden the eggs, which removes valuable proteins and liquids.
Just pure Yorkshire spring water and British Salt.
And there you have it. KC Caviar - socially acceptable, sustainable and ethical Caviar.