It seems as though North Dakota is known for just one things these days…OIL. But would you believe that North Dakota is known globally, as it turns out, for caviar?
A distinctly American version of the salty delicacy prized for centuries by Russian czars gets its start each May in the cool waters where the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers converge. Each May, Paddlefish (one of North America’s largest freshwater fish) make their way north to spawn their eggs (roe). The roe are processed at the water’s edge to make more than 2,000 pounds of caviar prized by clients from Tokyo to Toronto to New York.
Under an agreement forged between North Star Caviar and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, paddlefish eggs are donated to the project by successful sport fishermen in exchange for having their fish cleaned free of charge. The roe is then processed into premium caviar and sold on the world market. They are licensed for export and international trade.
After the paddlefish are weighed and measured (a typical 70 pound female can be at least 20 percent roe) they are sent up a small conveyor into a structure where three sterilized rooms handle three stages in the caviar process: gutting; cleaning and salting; and canning.
Most of the caviar is sold to wholesale distributors who bid in an auction-style process. Only about 50 pounds is sold retail, typically in local markets, where a 4 ounce jar costs $100. (Russian caviar can cost twice as much retail.)
North Star makes a profit of about $150,000 each year. The funds support the nearby historic sites of Fort Union Trading Post and Fort Buford, where American Indian Chief Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881. Money also goes to community events in Williston, considered capital of the state’s oil boom.
The first portion of each year’s proceeds from the sale of caviar is directed to the Game and Fish Department for paddlefish research, information and enforcement. The remaining proceeds are granted back to non-profit groups in the region for historical, cultural, and recreational projects and efforts which improve conditions of habitat and land and water access for outdoor activities.
Could we see Caviar on the menu at Lone Tree’s facilities? Put in your requests and we might just see a new addition to our menu!