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We Should Be Eating More Canadian Geese

Geese are the worst kind of Canadians: they're jerks, cause tons of property damage, and bring down entire aircrafts. They're also delicious—and very, very plentiful.

Emelyn Rude

Photo via Flickr user Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

Geese are the worst kind of Canadians: They're jerks, they pollute our beloved outdoor spaces and waterways with their green shit, they cause millions of dollars in property damage, and bring down numerous aircraft every year by doing inconsiderate things like getting themselves sucked into jet engines. Migratory bird experts estimate that there are at least seven million Canada geese in North America alone, a population that has exploded in recent years due to the birds' hijacking of our food-rich, predator-poor lawns, parks, and golf courses. Thankfully this is America, so thousands of hunters enthusiastically take to our great nation's lakes and fields every year to turn the world's "most hated bird" into goose mortadella. The benevolent government, too, is rallying behind this eradication movement, gassing thousands of geese each year from coast to coast as part of federal and state wildlife management programs.

But with so much goose killing happening across the fifty states, why is there so little goose eating? In addition to valiantly ridding the world of some of Satan's feathered spawn, these fowl massacres have the potential to provide the citizens of North America with thousands of pounds of sustainably harvested, free-range, artisanal game meat. The locavore movement should be all over this shit (one braising class in Brooklyn doesn't count!). Why do most of these perfectly edible bird carcasses end up in garbage dumps instead of on empty dinner plates?

First off, it's partly because of the law. At the turn of the twentieth century, these now obnoxiously abundant waterfowl were actually on the verge of extinction, primarily due to overhunting and the destruction of their native wetland habitats. In a misguided attempt to save this sad facet of the otherwise majestic North American environment, the federal governments of Canada and the United States crafted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which made it illegal to "pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell" any migratory species the two countries shared without proper documentation. This piece of conservation legislation unfortunately still protects the Canadian goose today. A limited number of registered hunters are allowed to kill the bird in specific places and at specific times each year, but federal governments are unwilling to dramatically loosen this piece of conservation legislation, thereby unleashing the massive tidal wave of goose murders that the law is presumably holding at bay. The Canadian government, for instance, explicitly prohibits the consumption of birds it kills in its management effort to ensure that the birds are exterminated solely because they are public nuisances and not just for sport.

Second, it's also partly because there is no regulation. Meats like beef, pork, and chicken have at least a century's worth of oversight behind them that at least attempt to make sure that eating those animals won't kill you. Canada goose meat does not. Some visionary states like Pennsylvania and Oregon have established mechanisms for the inspection and slaughter of geese, but these systems somehow only produce meat deemed fit only for poor people at food pantries and are also few and far between. The thousands of geese killed a few years ago in New York City, for example, could not be consumed within the state because the Department of Health "doesn't have a protocol for testing the geese for toxins and has not figured out how best to process the meat." With the right knowledge and observation, experts maintain waterfowl is perfectly safe to eat, but the government generally chooses to sidestep any and all potential for mass food poisoning by avoiding sanctioning goose meat altogether.

The combination of these two factors means that if you don't kill it yourself or have it force-fed to you at a food bank, (legal) Canada Goose meat is very hard to come by. If you check your favorite wild game purveyor, most of them do sell geese, but this bird is generally of the domesticated Tolouse variety that already graces our collective tables as foie gras and Christmas dinner. The joys that come from masticating a Canadian monster can be purchased on the internet, but at $150 for a bird that averages out to only 12 pounds, it's hardly an affordable pleasure.

But even with the law, the government's fear of lawsuits, your tiny salary, and the folks at Goose Watch getting in the way of more game eating, the biggest obstacle at the root of all of this seems to actually be the geese themselves. Regardless of the reported leanness of the fowl's meat or the fact that it's considered by some to be "the roast beef of the skies," to many people this gangly bird is just a "rat with wings" that sits barely higher than seagulls and pigeons on the totem pole of "shit I will never eat." Unless you find yourself forcibly removed from the privilege of picky eating, you will probably never let this leech-like, urban decay-filled creature anywhere near your mouth. Which is a pity, because it probably would taste real good in there.