UK's First Caviar Farm in Yorkshire
Yorkshire is home to the first UK caviar farm to ethically produce the opulent delicacy
Yorkshire is well known for its unique cuisine and local produce — Yorkshire puddings, Henderson’s Relish and Wensleydale Cheese to name just a few; and in the last year, caviar has been added to that list. KC Caviar, on the outskirts of Leeds, is the world’s first and only ethically-sustainable caviar farm, where father and son team, John and Mark Addey, turned a small home-run business selling sturgeon into a pioneering enterprise.
After learning that sturgeon were critically endangered, Mark decided to find a way to conserve the fish. He was running a business, selling to the ornamental market, when he found another use for the sturgeon. ‘Caviar is just a by-product of the fish,’ explains Mark. ‘The family got together and decided to start an ethical caviar farm.’
Caviar farms have had a significant impact on the species, as sturgeon are killed for their eggs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that over 85 percent of the sturgeon species were endangered, more than any other group in the world. ‘We estimate that by 2020, three million sturgeon will be killed for caviar,’ Mark explains. But unlike other farms, the Addey family’s farm, KC Caviar, is unique; they are the only farm in world to use a non-kill process.
‘It was really important to use a process that would not harm the fish,’ says John. ‘We successfully pioneered a now patented process by which we can make caviar from ovulated eggs.’ Unlike other farms who stun or cut the fish to remove the eggs, John and Mark harvest naturally spawned eggs, which are then turned into caviar, currently the only caviar farm in the world licensed to do this. They follow the natural egg cycle and induce ovulation through an injection — the eggs are then carefully massaged out of the sturgeons belly without causing any damage. The caviar farm currently produces 15 to 20 kilograms of caviar each month, and has received a lot of media interest, featuring on Countryfile and national radio.
The fish live in large insulated polytunnels where the water is sourced from a nearby stream, running through the 28 holding tanks that store one million litres. ‘We currently have about 300 fish and we aim to have 500 by the end of the year,’ explains Mark. ‘The whole process takes about a year; the fish need to become settled and get used to their environment, and then the eggs begin to develop’.
The ethical and sustainable ethos of the farm doesn’t stop there; the Addey family keep their fish for up to 20 years before releasing them back into the wild or into their purpose-built retirement lake. ‘Most farms will keep fish for about five years, until they have been used for eggs or have died. Our aim is conservation of the sturgeon, so we look for somewhere to release the fish back into the wild,’ explains John.
The farm is home to the first hatchery-to-retirement facility; ‘we also have a lake on our farm for the fish who would be unable to live in the wild — families can come and feed them, and we are planning to have open days for people to come and see how the whole process works,’ he explains.
If the caviar farm wasn’t unique enough, John and Mark have been developing a QR code system that will allow customers to track where their caviar came from. ‘We take photographs of each fish and write their story. On every tin of caviar will be a code or number, which will take you to the fish that spawned the caviar.’ Each fish is given a name, including the humorously named ‘Nicola’ sturgeon, and have their own website page featuring a mini biography.
The caviar is currently only available to buy on the KC Caviar website, but they have recently secured a deal with a major supermarket and have had great interest from London stores to stock their caviar later this year. The farm is only one year old, but has already been nominated for awards including the 2018 Garbutt and Elliot Yorkshire Food Entrepreneur award.
Eventually, John and Mark hope KC Caviar can contribute to breeding programmes which will help sustain the levels of sturgeon, promoting their ethical caviar process across farms throughout the country.
Is caviar good for you?
Much like the goodness found in oily fish, caviar is rich in omega three oils that promote a healthy nervous and immune system. One tablespoon will provide half your daily requirement of vitamin B12 — helping to keep the nerve and blood cells healthy. Research has also shown the delicacy can help to keep skin looking young as it enhances the production of collagen and moisture retention.