Caviar is indeed one of the most expensive delicacies in the world. Even though some types of caviar and salted fish roe are far more affordable than others, most consumers don't realize why their caviar costs as much as it does.
The price of a type of caviar is directly related to its rarity, along with the amount of time and resources required to produce it. Top dollar caviar usually comes from rare sturgeon species that can take many years to develop roe, while cheaper caviar and fish roe come from more abundant species that can produce eggs in far less time.
Once at maturity, a fish can either be milked or harvested for its roe. No matter how it is done, collecting the eggs requires considerable time and specialized care. Processing the eggs to meet the malossol model involves additional expertise and particular packaging in order to be made into fine caviar. These processes can cause caviar to be more expensive than other seafood products, but the most driving factor of a caviar’s price is its rarity. The more difficult it is to get the product, the more expensive it tends to be.
Top-Dollar Caviar: Since what most consider to be real caviar comes from sturgeon, and wild sturgeon populations have been pushed to nea extinction by recent over-fishing, pollution and habitat destruction crises, the supply of wild-caught "true" caviar is much lower than it was 30+ years ago. Because nearly all species of sturgeon are now endangered in their natural habitat, wild-caught sturgeon caviar is regulated by government agencies and global trading initiatives so intensely that it is nearly impossible to buy (let alone afford) from almost anywhere in the world. Sourcing sturgeon roe naturally can no longer meet the demand for caviar across the world. Thus, farm-raising the product is the only means by which consumers can get their hands on the eggs of Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga, Siberian and other endangered species of sturgeon.
The majority of sturgeon roe available in the current market is supplied by fish farms. While the price of an individual fish's roe still fluctuates depending on the species as well as its quality and rarity (grade), the shift from wild-caught sources of sturgeon to farm-raised caviar has caused the cost of caviar to directly reflect the expenses that a farm will incur during the raising of sturgeon and processing of the caviar.
Thanks to advances in aqua farming and production technology, farming sturgeon has become more efficient and economical than ever before. The number of aqua farms raising sturgeon for caviar is also at an all-time high, and actually causing the price of fine sturgeon roe to go down. Yes, the cost of real caviar is still relatively expensive because of all the time and resources it takes to produce it, but even the rarer, higher quality sturgeon roes which were once nearly wiped from the planet have become affordable again, all thanks to the successes of sturgeon farming.