CAVIAR BUYING TIPS
IMPORTANT: The US Fish and Wildlife stopped the import of Beluga caviar into the United States in October of 2005 to reduce pressure on the species and help rebuild the diminishing stocks in the Caspian and Black Seas. If you find any Beluga caviar being sold here, it was harvested before the fall of 2005 or brought in by poachers illegally. http://www.fws.gov/le/impexp/BuyingImportedCaviar.htm
Fresh Beluga is not currently available in the United States. However, there are a few Beluga hybrids that are currently being farm raised in sturgeon farms in the USA and Europe. The Caspian and Black Sea Beluga species, huso huso are being cross bred with other sturgeon that results in a product that is similar in appearance and flavor to wild Beluga caviar . http://www.caviarstar.com/store/html/Products/Domestic-Caviar-2/NEW-AMERICAN–BELUGA-208.html
Do Your Homework – Price is no indicator of quality. Top dollar does not guarantee top quality; however, often bargain caviar is no bargain either. Sturgeon caviar is expensive so learn everything you can about the various types of caviar and their different grades. Find a distributor of caviar you trust and don’t be afraid to ask questions such as where and when was the caviar harvested, do you repack the caviar yourselves, do you have the US Fish & Wildlife documents on file to prove its legality, etc. If they don’t have all the answers you want to answer your questions, find another source and look elsewhere to spend your money.
Buy Only Fresh Caviar – Because caviar is quite perishable, once it is repackaged from its original containers into glass jars or tins, the shelf life is only about 1 to 2 weeks unopened in a household refrigerator. Once opened, it’s good for about three days refrigerated. So it is recommended that you only buy the amount of caviar you will be consuming within a two week period and don’t be afraid to ask questions about harvest dates so you can purchase the freshest caviar possible.
Be careful of mislabeled caviar – some internet companies may be offering Iranian or Caspian caviars which are much more expensive than farmed or domestic caviars. However, unless you really know your source or are a caviar connoisseur you may be getting something else in the jar.
Look for the term “Malossol” – it means lightly salted in Russian language and is a good indication that the caviar is high-end. Cheap caviar, fish roe not sturgeon eggs, is produced with a high percentage of salt to preserve the product for an extended period of time and be shelf stable (10% salt) and sold on supermarket shelves. This is what we call a caviar substitute and cannot be compared to sturgeon caviar.
Don’t Buy Black Market Caviar – there is more and more illegal caviar on the market today and it may eventually ruin the availability of sturgeon caviar sometime in the near future. Be sure to ask your supplier if the caviar you are buying is legally imported and they have import documents on file. Don’t be afraid to ask the supplier to e-mail you a copy of the “Import declaration” which states the product imported, date of import, species, quantity, and has the actual importers name on the document proving the product was imported legally. Also, do not buy from internet companies that are not located in the USA as they are more than likely selling illegally caught caviar and sending into the country without proper documentation.
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