Belgian caviar producers prepare for bumper Christmas period
The festive season is the busiest time of year for caviar producers in Belgium.
Willy Verdonck's company, Royal Belgian Caviar, counts Britain's Royal family among his customers.
The precious sturgeons' eggs fetch between £1,300 and £4,000 per kilo.
The director of the company's fish farm in Mouscron, Thierry Bay, explained that Royal Belgian Caviar was trying to get a competitive advantage over caviar production heavyweights such as China and Italy by offering the freshest roe possible through demand-led production.
Bay explained that the implementation of a slaughter-to-order system allowed the harvesting to take place at the last minute, ensuring eggs are exposed to the air for only 15 minutes between collecting and packaging.
The Belgian company breed their sturgeon, nourish them with their own feed, then slaughter them to harvest their valuable and coveted eggs when the time comes.
Sturgeon farming is a long process, and depending on the variety of sturgeon, eggs are not ready to harvest until the fish reaches an advanced age: this can be as much as 18 years old in the case of the Beluga variety, which can weigh as much as 200 kilograms at the time of slaughter.
Biologists have also been working at Royal Belgian Caviar to produce food similar in nutritional content to what the sturgeons would be consuming in their natural habitat.