The difference lies in the genus and species of Sturgeon that lay the eggs used to make caviar. Huso huso, Acipencer stellatus, Acipencer ruthenus, and Acipenser guldenstaedtii eggs are used to make the “traditional” caviars. Even these have distinct appearances and flavors, and individuals clearly assess and value them differently.
This is similar to how apples differ from pears (despite the fact that they are both pomes) and how apples differ from one another.
I wouldn’t argue farmed caviars are worse than wild caviars, but they are perhaps less well-known among caviar connoisseurs.
White sturgeon require 7 to 15 years to mature and produce eggs in the wild.
The eggs are available in 3 to 5 years in farm-raised conditions. They’re getting pen-raised white sturgeon ready for harvest far faster than wild-caught fish, no matter what pellets they feed them.
I gave a presentation on capturing white sturgeon in the California Delta a few years ago. As a raffle prize, one of the sturgeon farms provided a fully developed sturgeon. The winner requested if I could show him how to fillet sturgeon after I finished my session.
So that’s what I did. As I went about my nasty job, I kept running across enormous amounts of fat that were unlike anything I’d see in a wild caught sturgeon. Normally, I’d detect fat deposits in little amounts along the cartilage backbone (notochord) and at the top of the fish. The deposits would be the size of my thumbnail or smaller at best (on the same size fish). The deposits on the donated fish were all over the fillets and were the length of my whole thumb and twice the width of my thumb! Again, the fillets are all over the place!!!
The fat of sturgeon has a detrimental impact on the taste of the fillets. As I presented the fillets to the winner, I had to warn him that they would be unpleasant to eat and that I would take him out for free to catch a wild one.
As a result, I’m very certain that farm-raised sturgeon caviar would suffer the same fate, but perhaps not to the same amount as the fillets.
One thing to keep in mind:
White sturgeon taken in the wild (in California, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska) cannot be used commercially. As a result, anybody selling “Wild White Sturgeon” caviar is either lying or selling caviar from an illegally captured species. The penalties for buying or selling such things are severe. I’m not going to do it.