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This $4000-per-jar caviar has socialist roots

Some top chefs believe a kibbutz in Israel is now producing the world's best caviar. NBC News' Paul Goldman reports.

KIBBUTZ DAN, Israel -- 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?

The answer was simple: Adapt.

Stubbornness, hard work
Yigal Ben Zvi is a member of Kibbutz Dan who decided 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.

Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

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 on May 14.

It's a mix of stubbornness and hard work that helped Ben Zvi thrive.

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 told NBC News.

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

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