Surprise: Airline Caviar Is Often Produced In China?!

The topic of this post is exclusively to share something I found interesting, rather than to express outrage at airline caviar not being imported from the countries I was expecting. 😉

For many airlines, caviar is a big expense. For example, a few years ago Lufthansa’s CEO claimed that the airline is responsible for 5% of the world’s caviar consumption. It’s sort of crazy to think that a single airline serves that much caviar.

Lufthansa-First-Class-747 - 50

My assumption has long been that most airlines’ caviar comes from Russia, Iran, etc. However, a friend just pointed out something interesting about Qatar Airways’ caviar, which I wasn’t aware of — Qatar Airways imports their caviar from China. As you can see below, the label indicates that it’s from China, and upon further inspection, Gourmet House’s website indicates that they farm caviar in the Chinese province of Hubei.

qatar-airways-caviar

I actually didn’t realize that China was a pretty big producer of caviar nowadays, and based on what I’ve read, the quality is pretty good, and it costs a fraction of the price of similar caviar from other countries. This led to me to go back and examine some other airlines as well — is Chinese caviar the norm for airlines, or the exception?

I just looked at pictures of an Emirates caviar tin I had on a flight a while back, and guess where it’s from? Also China!

emirates-caviaremirates-caviar-1

Again, I won’t suddenly view caviar differently, but at the same time I genuinely found this interesting, as I was convinced most airline caviar was coming from other countries.

File this under “interesting, but not actually important.”

Did you realize a lot of airline caviar is produced in China?

Comments

  1. It’s almost as if the entire airline and “aspirational travel” industry wasn’t somewhat illusory. Now let me tell you about the airline’s bulk contract rate for your favorite Krug Champagne… 😉

  2. Lufthansa is in fact the world’s largest purchaser of caviar…fortunately (for now at least), the caviar is imported solely from Italy. No risk of ‘knock off’ chinese caviar 😉

  3. Interesting indeed but at the end of the day provided that it all comes from farm level production nowadays (which is for the best!!) origin of production is not per se relevant for the taste or quality, rather farm quality matters (how clear the water is, amount of individuals per sqm, food etc)

  4. Agree with you that it’s interesting, and not important as you said, if one couldn’t blindly tell the taste difference. It’s more about taste than “class”.

  5. I refuse to buy food from China if I can avoid it. China is has some of the highest levels of pollution in their air, water, and soil. A large percentage of their arable land is contaminated with heavy metals.

    http://fortune.com/2014/04/18/chinas-soil-pollution-its-much-worse-than-you-think/

    I can only imagine the quality of the water at ‘caviar farms’. They have a very weak food safety industry. I used to buy fruit cups until I realized they were mostly made in China. Many Chinese have very little faith in their country’s food safety. No surprise that a Chinese company bought Smithfield Group (the world’s largest hog butcher). The Chinese market will pay a price premium for international brands because they think they are safer/cleaner. I can’t imagine the concentration of pollution and heavy metals contained in farm roe from China. Just my opinion.

  6. Not a big deal as long as there’s good quality control. Most people who indulge in caviar/champagne on planes aren’t really connoisseurs anyway, let alone shop and buy caviar/high end champagne regularly on the ground let alone know how to buy caviar/high end champagnes without just following marketing.

  7. reading many of above comments and people’s reaction on social media/news/events in general, i really feel that many Westerners have adopted an imaginary sense of superiority with regards to their Eastern counterparts. You are surely entitled to your opinion, but just note that China (along with India, Indonesia, etc.) are heavily developing their industry expertise in every sector, and it won’t be long until they take away all the capacity in the West. Similar how many Trump supporters voted for him thinking he will get them back their jobs but they’re gonna be in for a bigly surprise.

  8. Ben, were you aware that Vietname is the second largest coffee bean producer in the world? The trade globalization of the past 30 years has hit every corner of the world…

  9. I remember eating caviar from China in First Class on middle eastern carriers and it would always give me a headache – especially given the additives and stabilizers (E285) added to the final product. Russian and Iranian are of better quality, but the challenge for airlines is cost and volume – it makes financial sense to serve the cheap stuff.

  10. This post was moderately interesting. The comments, on the other hand, were out of this world. First off, unless you are PAYING with your own money to fly first, pooh-poohing the caviar just because it comes from China is a bit rich. If you ARE flying first on your own dime, then you should have tons of your own ‘genuine’ caviar lying around, so get over it.

    What is the basis for this automatic disdain for anything China-made? I understand that their food safety is questionable, but nobody here has come up with one SHRED of information which suggests that the caviar is in any way shape or form inferior to the caviar that is from Iran or Russia or anywhere else supposedly more ‘genuine’. Caviar is just fish eggs, people. Yes, little black (or red or green) balls that come out the back end of a fish. It doesn’t taste better just because it was hand-collected by the calloused hands of an 80-year old babushka.

  11. On the one hand, some ppl here comment ‘All food from China are polluted, we gotta avoid them’, on the other hand they say ‘can I have another dish of caviar?’ on the plane.

  12. Lol, no you don’t want shrimp from china. First, you should see what those shrimp farms look like and what those shrimp swims in. I’ll give you a hint, you flush it from your toilet. I used to buy frozen shrimps from asian markets but not after I educated myself. Go look at a bag. They all have tripolyphosphate in the ingredients. Look at the ones from whole foods which is never from china it will say ingredients shrimp and that’s it. I don’t know about caviar since I don’t like it so I don’t care. That’s not too say farmed shrimp from other countries is always better but I have never seen ones from China that are chemical free. Enjoy the scampi!

  13. @Joe @Tiara
    Someone I knows manages a farm that produces caviar in China. Those that are exported are subjected to greater scrutiny. The scandals are mainly localized to the Chinese population.

  14. Anyone who dismisses this as a silly thing to be concerned about is obviously not familiar with the *constant* food contamination issues which plague China.

    When Chinese mothers resort to sourcing their infant formula from Australia, one could say there is a problem.

  15. I’ve never tried caviar but I love the little orange/red balls on sushi. I thought they were fish eggs too? If caviar tastes similar then I can see the attraction.

  16. Most caviar you buy hasn’t been strictly Caspian Sea caviar for a while. A lot of airlines haven’t served Caspian caviar for a while. For starters many farmed operations produce as high a quality product as high quality Caspian Sea caviar, and sometimes produce a superior product. Most of this is due to how overworked the sturgeon stocks are in the Caspian. There has always been low quality caviar coming out of the Caspian, but for the longest time only 2 nations were exporting – USSR and Iran. When the USSR broke up, more nations were fishing sturgeon to export caviar. And as the West and China saw “cheap” caviar, they were more likely to buy inferior product. Product that is technically illegal to sell, because it’s so bad, but purveyors will find a way to get their goods to a market.

    Lufthansa has Agroittica Lombarda (also Singapore Airlines) from Italy and Kaluga from China. Cathay Pacific has Calvisius from Italy. Even fine dining has removed itself from Caspian caviar market. The French Laundry, Eleven Madison, Benu, Manressa, Bouchon and Per Se serve Sterling Caviar from California. Kaluga is also served at Eleven Madison, Providence (LA), Saam and Beluga Bar. Most of the Caspian product just isn’t as good compared to the farmed offerings from around the world. That isn’t to say that all Caspian caviar is bad, it’s just that there’s a lot of bad Caspian caviar out there masquerading as a premium product with a premium price. And there’s better products out there with a lower price tag.

  17. @JaySeeDub : Sterling is a stellar brand of USA produced farm-raised caviar. Been eating it for years. Really top-rate stuff. They are even distributing more widely now in the EU. They have a “Black Friday” sale every year, though I highly doubt they will ever do the 50% off they did a few years ago.

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