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To collect the fish eggs — for both caviar and for fertilization — Judd uses a process called stripping, which extracts the eggs without having to cut open and kill the fish.
Once a week, he sifts through the rainbows, looking for females ready to spawn. He separates them from the other fish and then one by one, gives them a mild anesthesia, which relaxes them and makes it easier to push the eggs out of their bellies.
After about a minute or two, the fish comes to and swims away.
A one-pound rainbow trout will produce about 1,000 eggs each year for several years, Judd said. That’s a minimal amount compared to sturgeon, which will produce 100,000 eggs per pound.
The rainbow trout eggs taken to Forage each week are left in the ovarian fluid, which will keep them fresh until the chef is ready prepare them for service, said Judd, who hopes that more Utah chefs will purchase the locally-produced caviar.
He’s working with the Utah Department of Agriculture to make sure he’s following proper food safety guidelines. But "they’ve never had a request for caviar before," he said. "So they’re trying to come up with guidelines."
Utah’s agriculture community is excited about the development of this one-of-a-kind Utah product, said Matt Hargreaves, the Utah Farm Bureau’s vice president of communications.
"There’s not a whole lot of fish farmers left in Utah," he said. "So this is another way to help preserve that lifestyle."
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