from the March 2013 issue

$4000-per-jar caviar has socialist origins

Some leading chefs believe a kibbutz in Israel is now producing the world's best caviar. More than seven decades after being founded based on socialist ideals, an Israeli kibbutz is producing the most capitalist of foods.

Caviar fetching $4000 for a two-pound jar is being shipped more than 5,600 miles away to be served at some of New York's finest restaurants.

The kibbutz movement was born as an alternative way of living based on socialist values.

Eastern European immigrants formed these agricultural communities with the dream to settle the Holy Land. They had strict rules including communal sleeping for children, communal eating rooms and no personal profit -- meaning everyone is equal.

As Israel developed into the "nation of start-ups," the kibbutz found itself in an existential dilemma. How do you survive with socialist ideals in the digital age? And how do you persuade youngsters to stay and not move to cities?

Yigal Ben Zvi is a member of Kibbutz Dan chose to take matters into his own hands. With the help of eight workers, he now produces some of the best farmed caviar in the world.

A sturgeon is thrown into a bucket before it is examined by a biologist at a the firsh farm at Kibbutz Dan in northern Israel.

Two decades ago, Ben Zvi was raising goldfish when he looked for a new way to develop the kibbutz business.

Overfishing in the the Caspian and Black Seas then brought the sturgeon to the brink of extinction, which resulted in a U.N. ban on fishing there. Ben Zvi stepped in to fill the vacuum, importing the sturgeon to Israel and starting to raise them. Kibbutz Dan now boasts more than 60,000 sturgeon and produces about 6,000 pounds of caviar annually. "The good chefs in New York are saying that our caviar -- Karat Caviar -- is the best in the world -- and we believe them," he said.

However, Ben Zvi can't speak from personal experience. Kibbutz members can't enjoy the caviar because it's not kosher.

Unlikely as it seems Israeli produced caviar has been judged as the best in the world. Iranian caviar once held the title but due to pollution issues its export has been prohibited.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report March 2013

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