American Caviar No Longer Draws Sneers

In the Sacramento Valley, farmed sturgeon swim where cattle once roamed
Photo illustration by 731; Source: Alamy(2)

In a small complex of nondescript concrete buildings, wedged between a pair of rice farms, thousands of white sturgeon slowly circle inside 75,000-gallon tanks. It’s harvest time, and the mature females are being readied for selection. Once sedated, the fish, some as big as 100 pounds, are hoisted onto a stretcher and given an ultrasound to evaluate their eggs for extraction. In a room resembling an operating theater, a single slit is made to their ripe bellies, revealing dark, pearly roe sacs. The prized eggs, better known as caviar, are carefully scooped out, weighed, sealed in plastic bags, and dispatched to a sterile, temperature-controlled room for processing. The rest of the fish is sold to restaurants.

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