The Eat with Care blog
Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)
This holiday: Go on a wild goose chase
Set a roast goose on your holiday table and your family or friends will have a lot to talk about: What does goose taste like? How are geese raised? What do you do with goose fat? Who the heck eats goose anymore?
What’s more, you can regale your guests with goose idioms — chestnuts in the English language both familiar and obscure, such as:
- to cook someone’s goose (to spoil someone’s plans or bring about their downfall)
- what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander (what’s good for one person is good for another)
- as often as a goose goes barefoot (all the time)
- all his geese are swans (he exaggerates the importance of something)
Helpfully, Gozzard City at Provender Farm, a Vermont farm raising pastured geese, has put together a list of goose idioms so you can quiz your dinner guests on the meaning of the idioms as they feast on roast goose.
But the main reason you’d serve goose is for taste. Suzanne Podhaizer, who runs Gozzard City with her partner, Wesley Bascom, describes goose meat as rich and savory, with a complex taste and a dense texture. Granted, it’s for people who like dark meat, as all the meat on a goose is dark, but people who aren’t fans of dark meat might be won over by the flavor.
Suzanne — who also owns Salt Café in Montpelier, Vt. (and often writes for the magazine I edit) — is perhaps most euphoric about goose fat. “There’s nothing I don’t use goose fat for,” she says. This might surprise those of us raised to believe that fat is bad (were you alive in the 1980s?) but more and more people are coming to understand that fat from pastured animals, eaten in moderation, is essential for good health (have you read Sally Fallon?).
Fat in geese is not located within the meat, as in cattle, but just under the skin and inside the cavity. This means the fat can easily be removed (and expect to remove a lot, compared with other poultry). Suzanne likes to sear goose breast in this fat, roast potatoes in it, and make confit with it. “I find goose fat more flavorful than lard, and it’s a beautiful golden color,” she notes.
For humaneitarians, pastured goose is an ideal choice because geese thrive on pasture. In fact, of all the domesticated animals, geese are best adapted to
pasture: 100% of their diet can come from grass, if the pasture is well-managed. (Other poultry need bugs and/or grain for their nutrition.) And geese don’t mind wandering into damp or wet areas of pasture, whereas cows and other ruminants do mind quite a lot.
This means geese are ideal for areas of the country, such as Vermont, that have healthy and abundant pastureland. It’s one of the main reasons why Wesley and Suzanne raised roughly 300 geese this year: they appreciate that geese aren’t reliant on fossil-fuel inputs such as grain.
If geese are so awesome, though, why did Americans stop eating them? “I’m not so sure it was a question of taste than the fact that our modern ways of farming didn’t match them,” Suzanne explains. Geese need a lot of space, they’re loud, and they’re hard to pluck. Chickens are much easier to produce on a mass scale. So Americans have come to eat the species of poultry that industrial agriculture favors — which is why eating goose is a sweet, subversive way to thumb your nose at industrial agriculture.
Keep in mind, pastured goose can be expensive — Gozzard City’s is $9.50 a pound — and it can be hard to find (according to a 2007 USDA survey, only 161,000 geese were sold in America that year). But consider goose meat to be an ethical and culinary treat, perhaps reserved for once a year (though Suzanne would encourage more frequent enjoyment). There were good reasons why Tiny Tim “beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!” whenever the Cratchit holiday goose was served.
To purchase a goose from Gozzard City, you have to pick it up at their Vermont farm, due to federal regulations. Call or visit their website for more info.