These divergent opinions have led to a debate: Should we eat the Canada Goose?
I recently jumped into the discussion when my dad called to say that a hunter friend had pulled up with the carcass of a freshly-killed goose—blood, feathers, guts, and all. He said we would be cooking it for the next family dinner. To be honest, I was hesitant. I am locavore-inclined and eat domesticated fowl of all sorts—I adore duck and am particularly fond of a lightly poached duck egg—but there was something about eating a wild goose that made me stop. Was it that I had seen too many of them paddling around polluted lakefronts? Or maybe it was their predilection for foraging on the pesticide-saturated lawns of golf courses? It was as if the Canada Goose's close association with human activity meant there was something unclean about them. Sure, on the one hand they were wild, but because they like to wander in all sorts of icky places, eating one of the birds sounded just as appetizing as eating a back-alley pigeon.
So I called up a goose hunter.
Drake Larsen is a researcher in sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University who happens to be an avid hunter and who bags well over a dozen Canada Geese a year. He learned his passion for waterfowl hunting from his dad, who called his kids after the birds: Drake is named after the male duck, and his siblings Teal and Woodie after two different species. Canada Goose and venison are the main protein sources for Larsen and his wife. The day I called, he had been out on a goose hunt. "They're so yummy," he said. "It's good, lean, rich meat. I find they are similar to a good cut of beef."
It turns out that goose meat is just as versatile as beef, and the best way to cook it depends on the season. In the fall, the geese have not yet fattened up for winter. Their meat is lean and does not lend itself to roasting. Larsen slices open these fall birds and pops out their breast meat. They he cooks the breasts like steaks, stir fries them, or even grinds them to fill casings and make Canada Goose sausage. A winter bird, however, is fatter and is ideal for roasting. Larsen said his colleagues at work really enjoy a pulled-goose sandwich that he prepares in a slow cooker at the office.
And not only are the birds good to eat—they are also fun to hunt. Because of their flâneur-like loitering, a Canada Goose might seem an easy snatch, but it takes skill to nab one. To catch a goose, Larsen will set up a flock of decoys designed to attract the attention of his prey in an area near to where the geese congregate. Then he lies down amid the faux geese, waves a black flag to get their attention, and practices his goose calls. "Ducks have a simple language. Geese have more of a vocabulary," he said. "If [the geese] were coming toward me, I'd do a soft, slow, rhythmic honking. But if they were sideways, I would do a more distinctive pleading like 'Turn here! Turn here!' I find the calling is the invigorating part."