Give Good Goose

Among the most popular centerpieces of a traditional American Christmas dinner is roast goose. Typically associated with Victorian-era England, the tradition of the Christmas goose has since been adapted by families throughout the world.

Roast goose is a great option for those who want to enjoy a sustainable dinner any time. Goose remains one of the few meats in the U.S. that is not mass-produced on factory farms. Instead, most geese are raised in a sustainable manner on smaller-scale farms where they often graze on open pasture. (An important exception is when geese are subjected to the cruel practice of force-feeding during the production of fois gras – see below.)

By law, geese cannot be given growth hormones. Furthermore, since very few drugs have been approved for these birds, and since antibiotics don’t improve feed efficiency, antibiotics are given to geese only when required to treat illness.  However, as with any other type of meat, the best way to make sure that your goose was raised sustainably is to ask the farmer.

Planning to include goose in a special meal? Try buying a sustainably-raised heritage goose from a local family farmer. Heritage breeds have unique genetic traits which give the geese distinctive physical characteristics and make them especially well-adapted to local environmental conditions.

Unfortunately, heritage goose breeds are becoming increasingly rare; according to a study of domestic waterfowl conducted by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), four breeds of geese (the American Buff, Pilgrim, Pomeranian, and Roman breeds) are critically endangered.  In fact, the ALBC found only one remaining breeding flock of American Buff geese!

Purchasing a heritage goose not only helps keep your local family farmer in business, it also encourages the farmer to raise additional heritage birds in the future, thereby protecting these rare breeds from becoming extinct.

For more information on heritage livestock, please visit our genetic diversity section and our “Talking Turkey” article.

Foie Gras
We urge you not to buy foie gras. This specialty food consists of the swollen liver of a goose that has been force fed in order to increase the liver’s size and fat content. This cruel practice requires the goose’s throat to be held open while food is poured into its stomach, causing the liver to expand until it is approximately 6-10 times larger than normal.  Although foie gras is considered a delicacy, the reprehensible process of force feeding is animal cruelty. As a result, the process has been outlawed in several countries, including Germany and Denmark. California has also banned the production and sale of foie gras from force-fed geese (starting 2012); similar legislation is pending in New York. Currently, only two companies produce foie gras in the U.S.: Sonoma Foie Gras in California and Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York.

Goose Breeds
The American Poultry Association recognizes the following breeds within the Heavy, Medium, and Light weight classes.

Heavy Class: Toulouse, Embden, African

Medium Class: Sebastopol, Pilgrim, American Buff, Saddleback Pomeranian

Light Class: Chinese, Tufted Roman, Canada, Egyptian

Critically Endangered and Rare Goose Breeds

Critically endangered: American Buff*, Pilgrim*, Pomeranian, and Roman (*The American Buff and Pilgrim originated in North America.)

“Endangered” means there exist fewer than 500 breeding birds in North America, with five or fewer primary breeding flocks.

Rare: Sebastopol

“Rare” means there exist fewer than 1,000 breeding birds in North America, with seven or fewer primary breeding flocks.)

Glossary

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