1.0 CAVIAR PRODUCTS
The variety of products processed from fish roe is enormous.
Fish roe constitutes by weight the largest fish byproduct. The nutritional
value of fish roe is superior when compared to fish flesh of the same
species. It always contains more proteins and fats. The attractiveness
of roe is further enhanced by its pleasant yolky taste and the essential
natural sterility of eggs, which are enveloped in the ovarian sack.
To harvest fish roe is always economically advantageous
because spawners tend to congregate and/or to enter known areas of shallower
water which makes it easier for fishing.
The use of fish roe for human consumption as a delicacy
was popular in ancient Egypt and throughout the Mediterranean as far back
as 2,000 B.C. under the name Batareh (Botarga). In modern times it is
still processed from mullet, tuna, and any large freshwa-ter fish into
salted, dry-cured, sun-dried, spiced or pressed whole ovaries to form
'Egyp-tian Caviar' or 'Italian Caviar'.
It is appropriate to stress the common misuse of the term
'caviar'. Figure 1-1 illustrates the groups, of 'caviar' type products.
The subject of this manual is a roe product, which constitutes singled-out
and salted fish eggs obtained by passing the ovaries through screens and
then processed to remain singled out eggs or pressed into a cake like
1.2 THE WORD 'CAVIAR'
Labelling of caviar type products has a confusing history,
and continues to be a matter of discussion and argument. The central issue
is how to use the word 'caviar'. The word it-self is of Italian/Turkish
origin- 'caviare' (Italian) and 'khavjar' (Turkish). It was men-tioned
in documents of the XVI century in Italy, France, Spain and England in
a variety of spellings, pronunciations and native modifications. In modern
English, two pronun-ciations are accepted: caviar and caviar.
The Russian synonym for 'caviar' is 'Ykra' ('ikra'), the generic
term used in Russian for both fish eggs in the biological sense (ovaries
or single egg), and for describing a wide range of products processed
from roe, both singled-out eggs, (caviar) and whole ovary products. The
Japanese term 'Ykura' used for salmon caviar is actually derived from
the Russian term. However, this term is used only for singled-out, salted
eggs. If whole ovaries are salted e.g. salmon ovaries, the product is
The respected Oxford Dictionary further contributes to the
confusion: 'Caviar - the roe of the sturgeon and other large fish obtained
from lakes and rivers of the East of Europe, pressed and salted and eaten
as a relish'. This definition adds to the semantic mess - why 'large fish'
In modern times, caviar is made of all kinds of suitably
sized fish roe. Many adjectives are used with the word 'caviar' to identify
the product by fish species (Beluga, Keta, Lumpfish, etc.); by water body
(Caspian, American, Winnipeg Lake, etc.); and, by processing pecu-liarities (granular,
pressed, flavoured, pasteurized, etc.).
The word 'caviar' has also a figurative meaning. The play,
I remember, pleased not the million, 'twas caviare to the general....'
(Shakespeare's Hamlet). Thus the word was used in the past to stress that
to enjoy the taste of caviar one has to acquire a taste for it. The 'general'
public is not able to appreciate the taste.
Nowadays the word is synonymous for exceptionally high quality,
stature, taste or value of edible or non-edible items.
1.3 LABELLING PRODUCTS
Any labelling practice has to comply with export-import
regulations which may differ from country to country. In March 1917 the
Food and Drug Administration (USA) dealt with the use of the term 'caviar'
and issued the Service and Regulatory Announcement No. 3, which it is
appropriate to present here.
The letter quoted below was written in reply to a request for information
concerning the proper labelling of caviar made from whitefish, to which
a harmless vegetable dye has been added.
"Dear Sir: Your question has been taken up at some
length with the Commissioner of Fisheries. The bureau is informed that
the term 'caviar" can properly be applied to any kind of fish eggs
prepared after a special method. The eggs first prepared and most ex-tensively
used were those of the sturgeon, and to many people the term 'caviar'
is syn-onymous with 'sturgeon caviar'. In view of this fact and of other
considerations, it is be-lieved that the name of the particular fish from
whose eggs caviar is made should appear on the label. In the case in point
an appropriate label would be 'whitefish caviar'. This bureau will made
no objection to the use of the term 'caviar' on a product prepared ac-cording
to the usual method and made from roe of whitefish, provided the name
of the fish is given in conjunction with the word caviar."
The FDA policy remains the same today; the unqualified term
"caviar" should be applied only to the product prepared by salting
sturgeon roe. A product prepared from roe of other fish may be labelled
"________ Caviar," the blank to be filled in with the common
or usual name of the fish from which the roe was taken. All words in the
name should be in type of substantially the same size and prominence.
A common name of the fish is the name which is easily understood
by the public. The labelling regulations also require one to declare the
net weight, country of origin of the product and the packer, if the later
is different. To this extent the label 'Product of the Caspian Sea' may
be deceiving, because more than one country is processing fish prod-ucts
from the Caspian Sea.
Labels which contain words or expressions, figures or symbols
that imply false informa-tion, or may reasonably be regarded as misleading
or deceiving regarding the origin, technology or quality - are in violation
of the regulations. For salmon caviar the Cana-dian Inspection and Special
Services Branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has al-lowed the use of
the generic name 'salmon' in the product common name providing the list
of ingredients denotes the particular salmon species used by its usual
name. This means the producer must have one label for each species used.
Another permitted proce-dure is to list alternative species in the list
of ingredients and incorporate the generic name 'Pacific Salmon Caviar'.
One can find in the marketplace 'Salmon Caviar' that does
not list the species on the in-gredient list. It is common knowledge that
chum or Keta salmon caviar is the most valu-able and in this case the
customer is not able to differentiate it from other less valuable salmon
caviar, e.g. Pink or Coho.
At the time of preparing the manual nutritional labelling
is not mandatory. Caviar prod-ucts should be exempt from nutritional labelling
because they are not making significant nutritional contribution per serving.
Most important, and mandatory in all countries, is to define on the label
of caviar prod-ucts the storage conditions. As far as indicating the time
of packing and the time up to which the food at the mentioned storage
conditions is edible or 'best -different countries treat the issue differently.
For example, the Austrian regulations would classify both fresh and frozen
caviar as a semi-durable fish product, and the label should indicate the
time limit in month and year up to which the food is edible. Soviet Union
State standards imply similar requirements.
Canadian regulations do not require storage life time limits
if the products shelf-life is more than 90 days. This implies, that if
caviar is meant to keep for less than 90 days the 'best before' date should
be declared. This may happen e.g. when retail packages are re-packed from
low salt, old bulk packages and the packer wants to put on additional
safe-guards to ensure the so called 'Durable life'. By definition, 'Durable
life' means the pe-riod, commencing on the day on which a prepackaged
product is packaged for retail sale, during which the product, when it
is stored under conditions appropriate to that product, will retain, without
any appreciable deterioration, its normal wholesomeness, palatabil-ity,
nutritional value and any other qualities claimed for it by the manufacturer.
But this is a purely legal aspect required by Canadian Regulations. Good
manufacturing practice is always to indicate on the label some limits
to the discretion of the processor, e.g. 'best before ...'.
1.4 CANADIAN ROE RESOURCES
In response to market demand and growing prices for caviar
type products an increasing volume of roe resources is diverted to processing
into caviar. Every time a new roe re-source is utilized some tuning of
the technological process takes place. Table 1-1 lists landings of fish
species from which roe are known to be utilized for caviar type products
in other countries, mainly in the Soviet Union. According to USSR state
standards 20352 and 5.2307-76 (GOST-61) caviar can be processed from any
kind of sizeable fish eggs.
Table 1-1 includes ocean catches from both Pacific and Atlantic
coasts as well as fresh-water and farmed fish harvests. Roe of farmed
fish is available only when excessive numbers of fish are kept as brood
stock. Farmed salmon are not grown to maturity for egg harvest, because
the flesh becomes of lower grade. In European countries farmed trout caviar
processing is very popular. Because of the high market prices of sturgeon
caviar and the fact that the technology of sturgeon maturation in captivity
within 5-7 years is feasible-it may happen in the future, that farming
sturgeon for caviar processing will become an economically viable business.
Of those species shown in Table 1-1 only a few are utilized
in Canada to process caviar: chum, lumpish, whitefish, sturgeon and to
some extent carp and trout. Salmon roe (other than chum) and herring roe
are considered good potential caviar resources in spite of the fact, that
presently they are only processed as whole ovaries, exclusively for the
Japa-nese market ('Sujiko' and 'Kazunoko').
CANADIAN ROE RESOURCES
On the other hand, a similar popular product processed from whole gonads
of sea-urchin ('Uni') cannot be considered as a potential caviar resource
because of its tiny egg size.
As shown in Table 1-1 the potential resources for processing caviar are
substantial. However, very often (apart from lack of market demand) fishing
practices, discrepancies between fish maturation and fishing schedules,
government regulations, sustained har-vest considerations, and technological
obstacles are hindering roe utilization for caviar.
World caviar production, according to the FAO yearbook for fisheries
statistics, is pre-sented in Table
To introduce a new caviar type product to the market place one should:
- Evaluate the roe resource: season for best roe maturity, roe weight
as % of landings, opportunities for speedy delivery of fresh roe to
the processing site;
- Choose appropriate screening, salting, pasteurization or other appropriate
- Process and pack a pilot lot for shelf life examinations and marketing
For the Canadian industry the average yearly caviar production level as
a % of landings is: 0.8% (224 tons) for Chum in British Columbia, 18%
(450 tons) for lumpfish in the Maritime Provinces and 0.9% (18 tons) for
whitefish in Manitoba. A small amount of sturgeon caviar is produced in
New Brunswick (0.5 tons).