Fish roe versus caviar. What’s the difference?

If you are new to the caviar world things can be confusing. Wide variety of fish eggs from roes, substitutes and hybrids to caviar creates a main question “What’s the difference between caviar and a fish roe?” All fish eggs are technically fish roe, but not all fish roe is caviar… You can taste real and truly high quality caviar in Miami  and join a club of lovers of this delicacy. But first, let’s find out what the difference is.

What is  Fish Roe?

Roe is the fish egg mass coming from certain marine animals from a sea urchin to shrimp, scallop or a squid. The roe of marine animals such as roe of lumpsucker, hake, mullet, salmon, mackerel are especially rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.

What is Caviar?

A roe from Sturgeon fish is a source of true caviar. Caviar, salt-cured unfertilized roe of sturgeon fish, is a food delicacy associated with royalty and nutritive properties since prehistoric times. The drastic decline in wild sturgeon populations has led to an increased aquaculture production of caviar roe and its substitutes from other species. Sturgeon fish live up to a hundred years and produce eggs few times in its life span. Traditionally the term caviar refers only to roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. Nowadays only farm raised sturgeon is legally traded  in the World since poaching caused an extinction of the species. Wild Caviar Vs Farmed has almost no difference in taste although farmed caviar is more consistent in its appearance and texture.

So what is the difference between caviar and fish roe?

Salmon roe harvesting is happening every year in larger volumes and isn’t causing an extinction of species. While black caviar is harvested in small quantities and has lots of challenges during the process. Only roe that is coming from sturgeon fish can be proudly called caviar. Salmon, Capelin, Tobiko and Masago Caviar isn’t considered a caviar but a fish roe. The word “caviar” is not a synonym to  a fish roe since salmon , trout and paddlefish don’t belong to the sturgeon family and should be called fish roe. Fish roe is generally much less expensive. Each sturgeon species produces different roe in size, taste and color. There are currently 2 families of sturgeon known to be in existence today, acipenseridae and polyodontidae, which comprise a total of 28 sturgeon species in the family.

Main caviar grades are beluga, osetra & sevruga. In this chapter we will describe main caviar grades and  characteristics:

  1. Beluga’s roe has grey color and has large beads with rich buttery taste and cost the most throughout all caviar. Its cost in the US varies around $800 USD/oz. Importing of Beluga (HusoxHuso scientific name) is banned in the United States, only one company with its farm in Florida has a legal right to raise Beluga sturgeon and sell its roe. That’s why prices on beluga in the US are accessible for the ultra rich only. If you are looking for a Beluga alternative at lower cost the closest grade is Royal Beluga hybrid that has nuttiness of beluga and earthy notes of Siberian sturgeon.
  2. Russian Osetra Caviar (Gueldestandti scientific name) has smaller beads than Beluga but gives a more intense nutty flavor and has a firmer texture. Color of eggs varies from light brown to dark-grey. Great flavor profile and famous pop made osetra caviar the most popular throughout caviar lovers due to its competitive pricing and excellent flavor characteristics. Russian Osetra doesn’t necessarily come from Russia. Russian Osetra is farmed anywhere in the world like Germany, Italy, Israel, France or even Madagascar.
  3. Sevruga (Stellatus) produces the smallest eggs of a grey to dark-brown color with briny and earthy flavor, has saltier and richer flavor that is so hard to stop after one bite.

All 28 sturgeon species can produce caviar and only their roe is considered a true caviar, unlike salmon or paddlefish roe that can’t be called caviar. Also there are many caviar hybrids, for example Bester Caviar is a hybrid of Beluga and Sterlet. First letters in hybrid identify mother and last letters identify father. So mother is Beluga and father is Sterlet: “Be-Ster”.

You can buy caviar online  from the best selling caviar brand on Amazon- Bester Caviar. Bester Caviar doesn’t use any preservatives and never freezes caviar, all caviar is harvested in a classical method that allows it to keep traditional taste and nutritional value.

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