Fresh-grained caviar is prepared from the full roe of the female sturgeon. The sturgeons are caught in nets and taken back to the fishery laboratory alive. There they are clubbed and anesthetized, not killed, and the egg pockets are emptied. The fishermen carefully anesthetize the fish by hitting them at a specific spot below the head. The roe must be taken while the fish are still alive. If the fish experience the stress of death, they release a chemical into the eggs that spoils the caviar by making it bitter.
When beluga roe is taken from the fish to make the highest graded caviar, it is processed manually. The fish are placed on a coarse mesh screen spread across a wooden tub. The roe is removed by splitting the underside of the sturgeon with a sharp knife. Then the roe bags (filmy sacs containing the eggs) are broken by whipping them with birch switches. The freed roe is then passed over screens with varying-sized mesh to grade the eggs according to size. The roe is rubbed through the screens with the palm of the hand for optimum control. The process also separates the eggs from binding tissue.
During the process, the eggs drop into a tub below the mesh screens. After a portion of the eggs has been collected in the tub, it is transferred to a bucket and the process is repeated. Considerable care must be taken in rubbing the eggs through the screens, since bruising them results in a lower grade of caviar.
When all of the eggs have been collected, they are put into a tub and dry salt is added. The salt is thoroughly mixed with the roe. The eggs are then placed in a fine mesh screen to drain.
The caviar is packed in tin, glass or porcelain containers equipped with tight-fitting covers. It is then ready to eat or store under refrigeration.