- Harvesting caviar used to mean the death of a female sturgeon that had to be cut open to extract the eggs. Now there's a "no-kill" technique to get the caviar out without harming the fish, which could render caviar more affordable and sustainable.
- Angela Köhler, a German scientist, devoted nine years to develop the technique that could help reduce demand for black market caviar and save endangered wild sturgeon from being hunted to extinction.
- Currently, the cost of caviar extracted in this way cost about 15% more than standard caviar, but if more farms adopt the method, the cost could decrease greatly. No-kill caviar could eventually become "an everyday indulgence," bringing costs down from about $130 an ounce to around $25 an ounce.
The underlying premise of "no-kill caviar" — also known as "cruelty-free caviar" and "correct caviar"—is to model it on the production of eggs or milk, in which the source of the product is kept alive and productive for multiple runs. Ultrasound is used to see if eggs are ready; if they are, a signaling protein is administered to the sturgeon to induce a form of labor. A few day later the eggs be released from the sack so that they can be massaged out without cutting the fish open.
Köhler says, "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." Currently, only one farm has adopted the method, producing 1,100 pounds of caviar last year, but Köhler is optimistic that output could eventually reach 10 tons per year. Certainly, there should be a market for cruelty-free caviar. Many would be willing to spend a bit more to know that what they are consuming is not contributing to the decimation of wild sturgeon, which are considered endangered.