United First Class cans the caviar

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Mon, 7 Jun 1999 00:12:10 -0700

From a recent newsletter: (man, that Acrobat Capture OCR is marginal...)

>Fresh alternatives
>to caviar on United.
>Effective March 1, 1999,
>United's international flight
>menus will no longer offer
>caviar. Why the change?

>Environmental studies
>show that sturgeon stock
>has diminished over the
>past decade-and five e of
>the six species a r eon e the
>Endangered Species list.

>So the U.S. has entered
>into an agreement to assist
>In the control and trade
>of legal caviar stocks
>by signing the CITIES
>charter (Convention on
>International Trade in
>Endangered Species of
>Wil d Flora and d Fauna).

>United First customers on
>international flights can
>now enjoy a choice of
>delicious alternatives to
>caviar. These include
>Lobster Medallions with
>Cucumber DillRelish,
>Seared Beef Carpaccio
>and Escargot Brioche on
>Shiitake Mushroom.

The CITES convention does not *ban* trade in caviar... it just makes
it more expensive. Clearly, too expensive for United. Sigh. A $12,000
ticket to Tokyo, and they want to serve me overgrown crawfish, beef
jerky, and snails-n-shrooms.

>The Seattle Caviar Company is the Pacific Northwest's only caviar
>house. We specialize in caviar and everything that you may want to
>incorporate into your caviar experience. All the elitist essentials
>including champagne, truffles, foie gras and cigars.

>"When purchasing caviar, buy only as much as you plan to serve."
>It is suggested that one keeps caviar refrigerated until shortly
>before serving. An unopened jar or tin may be stored in the
>refrigerator for up to ten days.

>The traditional way of serving fresh caviar is in its jar or tin
>nestled in a large shallow bowl of crushed ice with its lid along
>side. Serve caviar with a mother-of-pearl spoon, being careful to
>avoid crushing the eggs. Avoid using sterling silver as it imparts a
>metallic taste and the caviar will discolor the silver.

>Caviar should be kept as simple as possible. Accompany caviar with
>fresh toast points, blinis or potatoes. Perhaps a touch of lemon or
>creme fraiche, but nothing more to mask the intense and bewitching
>experience of eating caviar.

>Caviar's traditional partners are iced vodka, champagne, or black
>tea and plain toast.

>Russian Caspian Sea Malossol Caviar
>The Seattle Caviar Company's Russian caviar
>is available in various sizes (1-Ounce Jar, 2-Ounce Jar,
>4-Ounce Tin and 8-Ounce Tin). Of course the original Russian tin is
>available upon request.
>Each tin is weighed and then priced accordingly.
>Fresh Beluga - $65.00 per ounce (28 g.)
>Fresh Osetra - $35.00 per ounce (28 g.)
>Fresh Sevruga - $30.00 per ounce (28 g.)

>Why is Beluga so much more expensive? Is it the best? (Top)
>The species Beluga is the rarest of the Caspian Sea sturgeon. It
>takes this species at least 20 years to mature before producing
>eggs. No Caspian sturgeon is considered superior to another; the
>caviar of each species is prized and preferred for its individual

>Do you carry Iranian caviar? (Top)
>Unfortunately, the United States has an embargo on all Iranian
>products. Iranian caviar is exquisite.

>What about crackers, eggs, and onions? (Top)
>"Repeat after me: crackers, eggs and onions are the enemy!" I love
>that quote. Chopped hard-boiled egg white and yolk, and chopped
>onion have always been part of the American presentation of caviar.
>It does make a lovely presentation and it does "stretch" the amount
>of caviar one may need to buy. Those traditional accompaniments were
>developed to mask the flavor of inferior caviar. Why mask the flavor
>of exquisite true caviar?

>What is the nutritional value of caviar? (Top)
>It can be said that caviar is actually good for you. Through
>chemical analysis it has been revealed that caviar does contain 47
>vitamins and minerals. There are 68 grams of fat in a pound (16
>ounces) of caviar, consisting of 25% cholesterol and 75% lecithin.
>There are only 74 calories in an ounce or 1,188 calories in a pound
>of caviar. For centuries caviar has been considered an aphrodisiac
>because fish and their by-products have been linked to the myth of
>Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, who was born from the foam of the
>sea. No wonder there is so much mystery, legend, magic and romance
>connected with caviar.

Vegan caviar, from the World Wildlife Federation:

And the WWF-run interenational monitoring arm does seem to have good reason:
>How Can CITES Help
>the World's Sturgeon?
>In June 1997, the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to
>the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
>Fauna and Flora (CITES) will consider proposals submitted by Germany
>and the USA to list 23 sturgeon species of the order
>Acipenseriformes in CITESAppendix II. Most sturgeon species are
>considered globally threatened and total world populations may have
>already declined by as much as 70%. Although habitat degradation is
>a primary threat, it is widely recognised that fishing to supply the
>international demand for caviar, the unfertilised eggs or "oocytes"
>of female sturgeons, has been a major contributor to these declines,
>particularly in recent years. Some of the species and populations
>are critically endangered. Of the 27 known species of sturgeos of sturgeon, four
>are already listed in the CITESAppendices. The proponents assert
>that five of the newly proposed 23 species meet the criteria for
>listing in Appendix II owing to their vulnerability to over-harvest,
>and a further 18 species are proposed for "look-alike" reasons.

And, I concede, since it's getting quite difficult to source
scrupulously legal supplies, I suppose I have to agree with United in
the end. But there's quite a few more luxury ingredients they have to
work their way down to to reach 'beef carpaccio".

>2. What is the present status of the world's sturgeon fisheries?
>Since the turn of the century about 90% of the world caviar
>production has come from the Caspian Sea basin. According to the
>Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the
>world sturgeon catch dropped from 27 718 tonnes in 1982 to 8140 in
>1994. Of the latter, 7,122 tonnes of sturgeon were caught in the
>Caspian Sea basin. For the past 10 years, the average total volume
>of caviar traded internationally (legal and estimated illegal trade)
>has fluctuated at a level of 400 to 500 tonnes per year. However, at
>the same time, legal sturgeon catches have been declining. In the
>area of the Volga-Caspian basin, which has been recognised as the
>most productive river basin for sturgeons in the world, the picture
>looks bleak. In nearly 15 years, the official catch of commercially
>exploited sturgeons dropped by nearly 90% from a total of 16 850
>tonnes in 1981 to 2190 tonnes in 1995.

>According to many international caviar traders, over the past three
>years the proportion of caviar produced and exported illegally has
>sharply increased and caviar from illegal sources has flooded
>international markets. In addition, other sturgeon species, such as
>the Amur Sturgeon A. schreckii, Siberian Sturgeon A. baerii, and
>Ship Sturgeon A nudiventris may be the source of some of the caviar
>processed and sold under misleading commercial names or false
>labels. In the Volga-Caspian basin, between 1991 and 1995, the
>reported annual number of sturgeon poachers arrested increased from
>535 to 793, the annual quantity of caviar produced illegally and
>confiscated doubled from 6.1 to 12.2 tonnes, and the volume of
>sturgeon meat from illegal fishing activities increased seven fold
>from 42.7 to 288 tonnes per year. In China and in the Russian Far
>East, increasing illegal fishing activities have also been reported.

>In Central and Eastern Europe, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Ukraine
>and Turkey, the once abundant commercial fisheries of the Black and
>Azov Seas and the Danube River basin are reduced to incidental
>catches. In North America, commercial fisheries for sturgeons were
>gradually forbidden under state laws. The remaining US fisheries are
>mainly for sport.

>... At harvest, an adult female sturgeon bears between 15 to 20% of
>her body weight in caviar. Making caviar is quite simple, but it
>requires accuracy: the female is caught, immediately slit open and
>the oocytes removed. They are rinsed, gently mixed with specific
>amounts of salt and borax (preservative) and then commonly packed in
>the classic 1.8kg tin boxes. On arrival at its destination, most
>caviar is re-packed in smaller tins or jars for retail sale.
>Sturgeon roe is a fragile product that needs to be immediately and
>carefully processed into caviar. With a shelf life of up to two
>years (using pasteurisation in order to increase this time) caviar
>must be quickly transported while kept at a temperature between -4
>and -2C.

>From the roe of four species of sturgeon caught in the world's main
>fisheries in the Caspian Sea basin, three different varieties of
>caviar are produced, known in trade as: Sevruga caviar, Osietra
>caviar, and Beluga caviar.

>4. What is the value of international caviar trade?
>With an estimated average international trade unit value of
>US$170/kg during the past five years, the official annual caviar
>trade worldwide of 450 tonnes may be estimated at US$76.5 million,
>and the retail value may be as much as US$0.5 billion. Average
>retail price per kilo varies, particularly depending on the species
>and the nature of the retail outlet.

>Widespread illegal trade in caviar has had dramatic consequences for
>the quality and therefore value of most caviar on the world market.
>A variety of trade sources report that since at least 1991, the
>quality of Russian caviar, for example, has deteriorated and in some
>cases not been suitable for sale. This has had a direct impact on
>the value of Russian caviar on the international market. For
>example, the unit value of official caviar imports into the European
>Union (EU) from the former USSR and the newly created Russian
>Federation decreased from US$205/kg in 1988 to US$142/kg in 1994.

And finally, the 1997 US regulation limiting personal caviar imports
to 250g was promoted with a wry poster from the US Fish and Wildlife
Service. Seems like it belongs somewhere in the Gallery of
Regrettable Food:

Here, finally, is the real reason United caved, I bet -- paperwork. I
can't imagine EVER surpassing 250g on an entire cabin, much less
per-passenger. But bureaucratic threats are substantial nonetheless...

>Are Permits Needed for Caviar on Cruise Ships and Airlines for
>Passenger Consumption?
>Caviar intended for passenger consumption while traveling and
>exported by cruise ships and airlines is exempt from the CITES
>permit and user fee requirement if the quantity is 250 gm or less
>per person per trip. Such caviar may not be sold during the cruise
>or flight, or off-loaded outside of the United States. The cruise
>company or airline, however, must file a wildlife declaration of
>caviar exported and quantities re-imported. Quantities greater than
>250 gm per person per trip require permits.