Caviar wars: Israeli kibbutz gets in on Caspian delicacy

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A socialist kibbutz north of Israel’s Sea of Galilee is making inroads in the caviar business–traditionally the domain of arch rival Iran and Russia, ABC News’ Alexander Marquardt reports:

Dr. Hurvitz Avshalom is the resident biologist for Karat Caviar, Israel’s only sturgeon farm and a growing presence in the caviar market once ruled by Russia and Israel’s arch-enemy Iran. With a ban on fishing sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, all legal exported caviar these days comes from farms.

But Israel is known more for its hummus than its caviar and this traditionally socialist kibbutz in the rolling hills north of the Sea of Galilee is one of the last places you’d expect to produce a food that can retail for $2,500 per pound.

“Well you have to support yourself,” explains farm manager Yigal Ben-Tzvi, who was born and raised in Kibbutz Dan. “You have to take care of the old people in the kibbutz, and the kids.”

As for this small Israeli farm now taking business away from Iranian caviar producers, Ben-Tzvi does little to conceal his glee.

“It’s like a joyful revenge, you know?” he chuckles. […]1n 1992, Ben-Tzvi brought back fertilized Osetra sturgeon eggs from Russia, hoping to raise sturgeon to sell their meat to the growing Russian population in Israel. A decade later, they saw a leap in the price of caviar and decided to let the sturgeon get older so they could produce eggs. This year they hope to produce four tons of caviar, with an eye on eventually grabbing 10 percent of the approximately 100-ton market for premium caviar.

The irony is that Karat caviar is not sold in Israel, however, Marquardt reports: “Sturgeon don’t have scales that can be removed by hand so they’re not considered kosher and the farm can’t risk losing its kosher license for the trout they also sell.”
(Photo: ABC News.)