A biologist in Germany is ready to revolutionize caviar, and her plan could save fish lives even as it cuts costs for consumers. Caviar comes from sturgeon—"an animal as old as dinosaurs, today nearly extinguished from its natural habitats," as Dr. Angela Köhler's company puts it. And traditionally, getting at the eggs requires killing the fish, she tells Civil Eats. That fish could be decades old, the Smithsonian notes. "It doesn't make much sense to take a fish that needs seven or eight years to mature and then, when it has its first eggs, kill it," Köhler says, via NPR.
The solution? A high-tech system that involves massaging the eggs out of the fish, resulting in "correct caviar." When an ultrasound shows a sturgeon's eggs are ready for harvest, the fish receives a labor-inducing protein; then, the massaging begins. Köhler believes the German farm using the system, called Vivace GmbH, could ultimately produce some 10 tons of caviar every year. If the procedure is widely adopted, prices could drop to $20 an ounce from the current $105 per ounce for conventional caviar, she estimates. But NPR offers some caveats: It finds that the resulting caviar's taste doesn't match the traditional stuff. What's more, asks a sturgeon farmer, "Why would producers of caviar want prices to continue to drop?" (Meanwhile, in California, efforts to save another type of fish is killing ... farmland.)