Do you know how caviar is produced? This exceptional product comes from a prehistoric fish, the female sturgeon, raised en masse and killed around the age of 8 or 10 years in order to collect their eggs.
François René, an agricultural engineer and research director at IFREMER, a specialist in aquaculture reproduction, was convinced that it should be possible to produce caviar in a more humane way, and took advantage of his early retirement by embarking on an innovative experiment: removing a sturgeon's eggs by Caesarean section and thus allowing the fish to live longer, from 50 to 100 years on average.
Thanks to the arrival of his son, Frédéric, on the project, his idea became reality after four years of research. René says he achieved "100% survival of sturgeons after a delicate operation but the least invasive possible for the animal, allowing the fish to continue to produce eggs throughout its life".
Natural 'Cold' Anasthesia
On the strength of their discovery, father and son set out to produce caviar in Saint-Guilhem le Désert, in the heart of Occitanie in Southern France, in 2019. It is in this atypical place with an artisanal allure that René and his team breed sturgeon in basins of pure water, with a very low density (no more than 20kg / m3), and feed them with food from agriculture; organic without flour of animal origin. "We supplement this diet with a little cod liver oil, which is essential for their omega 3 intake," said a spokesman for the Caviar Castillonne team.
In order to remove their eggs they perform a small caesarean section on sturgeons of around 8 years old under a natural anaesthetic in cold water. The fish are then returned to the water and resume the course of their life, before being operated on again in two years. This cycle continues until the females no longer produce caviar.
Then, instead of Caviar Castillonne killing the sturgeons that will no longer produce eggs, the fish are instead transferred to resting pools to live out a quiet 'retirement'.
Castillonne Caviar Acclaimed by Top Chefs
Once the eggs have been collected, the producer refines the caviar for several months, to give it more aroma and a longer flavour in the mouth, as well as the buttery texture popular with gourmets.
The great palates of the region are not mistaken since the three-Michelin-starred chef Gilles Goujon and even Stephan Paroche from Château Castigno now use the caviar to prepare their dishes.
Castillonne caviar is also available for sale for individuals and the fish basins can be visited during a stay in Occitania.