Unknown to many Filipinos, goose is one of the oldest of man’s feathered friends. Their domestication probably took place in Egypt (where they were considered sacred) about 3,000 years ago; although some research suggests that it may have been even earlier.
The term “goose” (plural: geese) applies to the birds in general, and to a female in particular. The word “gander” is used for a male in particular. Young birds before fledging are called “goslings.” A group of geese on the ground is called a “gaggle”; when geese fly in formation they are called a “wedge” or a “skein.”
In some Asian countries, goose meat is a regular commodity in the market. It is only in the Philippines that the raising of geese for meat has not been exploited commercially as much as chickens or ducks. Geese are raised more as pets and curiosities than for the production of meat and eggs.
What most Filipinos don’t know is that geese are cheap and easy to maintain and they provide animal protein as well as cash income.
In fact, raising geese is more advantageous. Mature geese are independent, larger than other poultry species and thus less vulnerable to predators. When kept in small flocks and allowed to roam the farmyard or field, they are adept scavengers, requiring less attention than any other domestic bird.
“The raising of geese is a profitable sideline on the farm and in the backyard,” wrote F.M. Fronda, author of Poultry Science and Production. “They need little care and give little trouble. They can live and multiply where other kinds of poultry will die. When turned loose in the backyard geese will clean weedy patches and improve the quality of grass in the lawn.”
Geese adapt easily to captivity, and if small quantities of supplementary feed are provided in the evening they will even return home by themselves. Thus, requiring little extra work, these animals supply nutritious meat, huge eggs and rich fat for cooking, as well as soft down and feathers for bedding and clothing, which makes them particularly appropriate for providing farmers with a supplementary income.
“On the farm, as a guard for the home, geese cannot be equaled,” Fronda noted. “The gander is considered an excellent watchdog as he makes a noise whenever something out of the ordinary occurs, and he is soon joined by the rest of the flock.”
In northeastern Thailand, a feasibility study recommended that goose raising be incorporated into the region’s existing farming system in order to utilize farm waste products efficiently, hence providing small-scale farmers with a source of extra income and a much needed animal protein source for the family.
Like ducks, geese produce large edible eggs, weighing 120-170 grams. They can be used in cooking just like chicken’s eggs, though they have proportionally more yolk, and this cooks to a slightly denser consistency. The taste is much the same as that of a chicken egg.
The main demand for goose meat is for festive occasions, and this is likely to continue to be the case. However, restaurants and hotels would no doubt offer goose if they could be assured of supply and quality.
A goose can be roasted as a whole bird, but its size tends to preclude this except for banquets and other festive meals. Just one thing though: Goose meat contains much more fat than turkeys or chickens. At least 500 milligrams of fat may be rendered from an average-sized goose during cooking. One liter is not unusual for larger birds.
But most of the fat is concentrated in the skin, and the meat itself is very lean, rather like duck. Goose fat is often separated and stored for use on its own. It can be used as a substitute for butter, although the flavor can be slightly “gamey.” Potatoes cooked in this fat are highly regarded by some. The fat keeps well in the refrigerator. Goose can also be prepared as confit and the fat used to preserve the meat.
What kind of breed should you raise in the Philippines? In his book, Fronda recommended Toulouse, the heaviest breed of geese, which is most common on the farms in the United States.
“The Toulouse has been imported to the Philippines, and may now be seen in a number of places in the country,” Fronda wrote. “The Philippine geese were probably introduced from China as they bear close resemblance to the White Chinese geese, but owing probably to neglected breeding, they have become a trifle smaller than the White Chinese. They are, however, hardy and can be raised on the farm without difficulty.”
What is difficult, however, is the mating. “Geese are peculiar in that they often refuse to accept the mate given them,” Fronda wrote. “For this reason, they should be mated carefully before being allowed to run at large. Four geese to a gander will produce good results, but only two to a gander are better.
“A medium-sized, alert, active gander and active geese with good width and depth of the body for his mates should be chosen. Young geese are at their best at the second laying year. For this reason, the flock should be started with geese that are about three years old. These birds will be useful as breeders for about ten years.”
Geese need very little in the way of housing, for they may be raised with practically none. Those that are provided with houses especially built for them do not seem to be any better than those left in the open.
“There should, however, be much shade to protect them from heavy rains and storms,” Fronda wrote. “They should be allowed the freedom of an enclosed yard, for they will try to uproot almost any plant which is not fenced in.”
How do you distinguish a gander from a goose? Generally, the gander is larger than the goose, and his cry is shrill compared with the hoarse, coarse cry of the goose. Experienced geese raisers can determine sex by making the sex organ of the male protrude. It requires a little practice to do this, especially with young goslings, but among the mature birds, the forefinger may be inserted into the rectum and the male sexual organ drawn out.
sources: sunstar.com.ph, extension.umn.edu, raisinggeese.com, photo from freedigitalphotos.net