HOW MUCH DOES CAVIAR COST ?
Caviar is known for the luxury that follows its name. The trail of wealth and abundance is something that pops in everybody’s mind when they tend to think about the most expensive food in the world. Did you know that “caviar” was used by the common folk in medieval Russia? They used to eat fish roe alongside a bowl of oats, and in the 19th century U.S. “caviar” was served almost free of charge. It was used to induce more thirst and propel drinking. You can easily see that caviar is quite ambiguous.
Strictly speaking, caviar is salted fish roe that comes from the sturgeon, a fish native to cold waters of North America and Eurasia. The most famous habitat of this 200 million year old relic is the Caspian Sea basin. You can salt and eat roe of other fish, most popular being salmon roe.
So, how did some simple fish roe become the symbol of wealth and prestige?
It all comes down to this; caviar is delicious and tastes amazing, so everybody wanted a share of it. By the end of the 19th century in Europe, it was greatly popularized by the upper class. The increase in demand put a lot of stress on the wild sturgeon population and over fishing started to take its toll. As sturgeons have to swim upriver to spawn, an increase in the number of dams built all over the world cut on their possibility to restore numbers even more. That, as well as the pollution.
As sturgeon can live up to several decades, they reach maturity only after 10 to 15 years. The amount of time and effort needed is huge in contrast to ever-increasing demand.
The rarer the sturgeon and caviar, the more it costs. So, what is the situation today?
You probably won’t find much wild caviar as the majority of today’s supply comes from aquaculture farms. These are the only solution for stable supply, consistent quality and sustainable production. Farmed caviar is picking up in quantity. If you think that the quality would suffer, think again because with stable conditions you can monitor the food, the water, and health of the sturgeons. Stable production means stable profits, and the fish farms are smart enough to invest back into themselves to further expand the quality and quantity.
So, where does that leave us with the cost of caviar? It is certain that the cost will vary depending on the type of fish. The rarer the fish, the higher the price.
For example, if you buy Lumpfish caviar, which isn’t actually caviar because it is not from the sturgeon, expect to pay no more than $5 or $10 dollar per ounce. But this isn’t real caviar at all. Paddlefish, also not a real caviar, but sold like one, can be fetched for around $20 to $30 per ounce. You can purchase great Paddlefish caviar at OLMA for $25 for an ounce. Caviar and other roe are sold in tins or jars starting from half an ounce or 14 grams. You can get an ounce, two, five, and so on. The standard serving size for one person is 14 grams. White sturgeon, fish native to the Pacific coast of North America can be found from $50 to $60. Standard Osetra is found anywhere from $75 to $100 per ounce. The rarest type of the sturgeon is the Beluga, starting from $130 per ounce and rising up. Good quality Osetra and Beluga at Bond Caviar can be found for $75 and $135 per ounce respectfully.
This is how the price is structured keeping in mind the type of fish, but there are also differences between the fish themselves. In the world of caviar there is a grading system, grading roe of each specimen depending on color, size and firmness. The color is actually highly important. For example, if we take the Osetra, we have different colors there. They can range from dark gray to golden. Dark colors are more common so the lighter ones will cost more, as they are rarer.
Classic Osetra may cost around $80 for an ounce, but Royal Osetra costs more and the Imperial or Golden Osetra can be from $400 dollars per ounce or higher.
One of the rarest specimens of Earth is the albino beluga. Beluga today is critically endangered. What is even rarer is the complete white albino beluga with light yellow row. Only 1 in 1000 turns out to be albino. One of the most expensive caviars in the world comes from the Iranian Albino Beluga which is over 60 years old. This caviar can fetch a price of around $34,500 per kilo (2 pounds and 3 ounces).
What can we take from all of this? First, you don’t have to be wealthy to enjoy caviar. You can simply choose an alternative that suits your pocket. Second, it is not the quality of the caviar that is the main dictator of the price. You can find insanely tasty caviar for $100. As long as the fish is raised in good conditions, has pristine water, and is harvested properly you are good to go.
Have a nice day and enjoy!