Meet our Free-Range Goose Farmerby Robert Gooch November 12 2018
Our free-range geese are reared not far from us by Philip Hunter of Yew Tree Farm, where they enjoy a happy, natural life on a diet of foraged grass and home-grown cereals. We spoke to Philip to find out why this is so important and why he recommends goose for your Christmas dinner.
What got you started in geese farming and how has your business changed since starting out?
“I am the third generation to have farmed at Yew Tree Farm and over the generations much has changed in farming businesses. Unlike many other small farms, we have survived by diversifying and trying to produce what people want as close to the final consumer as possible. In addition to changing the farming business from being just arable, we now farm pigs and cattle as well as growing geese and chickens for Christmas. We also have an outside catering business and provide hog roasts, using meat produced on the farm as much as possible.”
Where is your farm?
“Our farm is near Fressingfield in north Suffolk. It’s a beautiful, rural corner of the country.”
How many geese have you grown for Christmas this year?
“I am growing 600 geese this year and a large proportion of those are going straight to the Wild Meat Company.”
How are your geese reared? What are they fed?
“Our geese live a very happy free-range life. I buy the goslings in when they are one day old and keep them warm under a gas brooder until they are old enough to go outside at about three weeks.
“We are lucky that we grow many of the ingredients used to feed the geese on the farm — the rolled oats and wheat. We also buy in and add brewers grains and soya for the protein element. I fill up the feed hoppers on the range every day with this wheat, oats and brewers grain or soya mix. As geese are grazing birds, grass is the other important part of their diet and there is plenty for them.”
What do you enjoy about raising geese?
“Geese are so intelligent, far cleverer than other types of poultry. I also like the fact that they eat grass, so they’ve always got something to eat!”
What breed are your geese and why did you choose this breed?
“I farm the Legarth strain of geese as they are well known for being the largest. At Christmas many people want as big a bird as they can get!”
What makes your geese so tasty?
“Geese are really moist and rich to eat, thanks to their relatively high fat content. It is this fat which gives them so much flavour. I also think our geese are particularly tasty because of their quality of life and because they are fed our own home-grown and home-mixed ration, rather than a manufactured one which includes fishmeal.”
How do you recommend cooking your geese?
“I recommend plain roasting on a trivet so that the fat can be easily and regularly drained and saved for roasting and frying for the next month or months! Chefs all agree that goose fat makes the best roast potatoes and vegetables. The Wild Meat Company also gives similar advice.”
Why do you think people should choose goose for Christmas?
“I think people should try goose if they’ve never had one before to discover just how delicious they are. Also, goose is seasonal so if you don’t eat one by January you’ll have to wait until next autumn for the next fresh birds to be ready! If you’re choosing between goose and turkey, though, you do need to be aware that there is less meat on a goose than on the same weight turkey. I would say there is only half the amount of meat. Go for a goose if you have less than eight people to feed. You may still need to give everyone smaller portions than you would for a turkey but this is easy to do as the meat is richer.”
What’s your favourite game dish for the festive season?
“You can’t go wrong with a three-bird roast! If you’re feeding a lot of people but love goose, I heartily recommend the Wild Meat Company’s Party Three Bird Roast made with a boned out goose and chicken and pheasant. It needs hardly any attention while cooking in the oven so you can serve up something really impressive without having to spend the whole day in the kitchen.”
View our free-range goose options.