In spite of the uncertainty that every breed of geese was accepted as kosher, the consensus is that most of them were. In the Middle Ages, it has been noted that waterfowl tended not to be predatory (predators are not kosher). However, of the European breeds of geese, there is no record of any community abstaining from the consumption of these birds.
The Jews have been eating geese for at least two millennia. Although there is no biblical evidence, according to archeologists, it is possible that goose was consumed in biblical times. We know that goose was consumed in the time of the Second Temple, and it is mentioned numerous times in the Talmudic writings.
OU Kosher has been certifying geese for decades.
The goose is a medium to large, web-footed fowl belonging to the bird family, Anatidae, a biological family of birds including ducks, geese, and swans that are distributed across the worlds continents. To date, there are approximately 29 known species of geese throughout the world.
Geese were reared as property guards due to their
exceptional eyesight and wide field vision combined with their clamorous voices. Legend has it, that a surprise attack on prehistoric Rome was prevented by an alert goose. In current times geese are more renowned for their lavish and plentiful down feathers. Goose is also favorably recognized for its dark, rich and succulent meat that delivers a unique flavor when roasted.
In the last two centuries, an Asiatic goose, most commonly known as the Swan Goose (Anser Cygniodes), was imported into European and North American markets. These geese were nicknamed Weeder Geese, named for their penchant for consuming weeds. These geese rose to popularity in the United States during the 1950’s when they were released into fields to weed cotton. It soon became popular to release these geese into fields and orchards to eradicate the various weeds. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when more effective herbicides were developed, that the popularity of these geese began to decline. The Swan Goos, as well as the breeds derived from it (such as the African Goose and the Chinese Goose), were never popular in the kosher market. Consequently, OU Kosher has not yet been asked to evaluate their status as kosher birds.
Despite thousands of years of domestication, the European geese are generally uniform. The Embden, Toulouse, Pomeranian and the Pilgrim Geese are the most common sources of goose meat and are all considered kosher. These breeds are descended from the wild Greylag goose (Anser asner). The Greylag originates in Northern Europe and Northern Asia, where it is universally accepted as kosher.
OU Kosher collected several goose breeds, to determine the kosher status of the new strains that are being raised by the various hobby farms, which are farms maintained as a pastime without the expectation of being one’s primary source of income.
Most of the goose breeds, although having new names, were nearly identical to the birds raised and consumed by the kosher market for centuries. One interesting new breeds, donated by the Biblical Ornithological Society, is the Oregon Mini Goose. A hybrid developed by David Holderreade, the goose is much smaller and quieter than other breeds of goose. Crossbred not only from various domestic breeds, but also the wild Pacific white fronted female, the goose has the unmistakable appearance of its maternal lineage, in addition to features from the other ancestral breeds.
A pair of these geese were presented for evaluation and study by the rabbis of the OU. They concluded that the Oregon Mini geese and the recognized breeds which were used to develop the breed were kosher.
As a result of their mild temperament and size, they now reside in one of the aviaries of the
Biblical Ornithological Society. The OU also presented a letter to the Biblical Ornithological Society documenting the kosher status of this goose. There are no plans for any industrial production of this breed.
If you haven’t yet tried OU Kosher goose, your culinary horizons eagerly await expansion.
RABBI CHAIM LOIKE IS AN OU KOSHER RABBINIC COORDINATOR WHO FOCUSES ON THE CERTIFICATION OF CHEMICALS, EGGS, SPICES, TEAS AND JAMS. KNOWN AS THE OU’S BIRD SPECIALIST, IN HIS SPARE TIME HE VOLUNTEERS AT THE BIBLICAL ORNITHOLOGICAL SOCIETY, HELPING TO CONSERVE THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES.
ALANNA CAPLIN WORKS IN THE COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT OF THE ORTHODOX UNION. ALANNA RECEIVED HER MASTER’S DEGREE IN MEDIA MANAGEMENT, AS WELL AS AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN COMMUNICATION.