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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 19, 2013
Polska…tastes good!
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Polish Goose Meat on European Tables
December 19, 2013   
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The production of goose meat is a specialty of Polish agriculture and has a tradition that goes back centuries. Goose meat is valued not only by Polish consumers but also internationally due to its flavor and nutritional value.

Goose breeding developed in Poland in the 19th century, starting from a local breed called Pomeranian Goose, which were of considerable size and weight and had tasty meat. Good natural conditions for breeding these birds (plentiful pastures, water and meadows) also helped goose farming to spread in rural areas. Not only wealthy farmers but also owners of small farms raised geese, buying whole flocks off birds, fattening them until winter and then selling or consuming them themselves.

Goose rearing was mostly seasonal, from late spring to early winter. The traditional annual goose butchering event took place before St. Martin’s Day on Nov. 11. Hence Nov. 11 has been named National Goose Meat Day. For many years, various promotional campaigns, large and small, have taken place in different regions across Poland, the aim being to promote the idea of healthy eating including goose meat.

Goose meat was turned into winter meat and fat reserves using various preservation methods. In Pomerania, the traditional ways of processing goose meat are used to this day. Typical products made from goose meat in the past included gêsia okrasa (goose fat) and smoked goose breast – pó³gêsek (half-goose) – which was also made in other regions in Poland. Smoked goose breast was a delicacy in Europe that was imported from Poland.

Goose fat is considered a healthy animal fat because it contains about 42 percent of monounsaturated oleic acid and 20 percent of linoleic acid. Increased consumption of unsaturated fatty acids is recommended in diets designed to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

The White Koluda Goose (which originated from the Pomeranian Goose) is a breed known as an “oat goose” and a delicacy appreciated by consumers with sophisticated palates. The special flavor of oat geese in Poland today results from the way they are raised. Young oat geese are a specialty of Polish agriculture and a trademark product of the poultry sector.

Polish oat geese are reared in accordance with European Commission guidelines and a set of local regulations on young oat geese. These regulations require farmers to use the genotype of the White Koluda Goose. In this breeding technology, from their second week, the geese are allowed to range free and are fed mainly grain, root crops and green fodder.

An important element of goose farming is how the birds are fed during fattening (the last three months before slaughter) – with unshelled oats, which lends the meat its unique flavor. Fulfilling these requirements means that the meat of Polish oat geese is organic. Polish oat geese are valued not only for their flavor and nutrition. Thanks to them being fed with oats containing zinc ions, the meat gains additional properties and is recommended in cases of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, skin diseases and impotence.

Today Poland is the biggest producer of geese in Europe. In 2012, 6.2 million geese were sent to slaughter, which is about 2.5 percent of the total national industrial slaughter of poultry. About 26,000 metric tons of meat was obtained, of which more than 70 percent was exported, mainly to Germany. The goose meat market in Poland is a niche market, though a promising one. In 2012, Poland exported more than 16,500 tons of goose meat and its products, worth almost 81.3 million euros. Those were mainly whole frozen carcasses and parts. Compared with 2011, the export volume grew 5.2 percent. From January to August 2013, exports exceeded 1,900 tons. However, exports are usually the highest in September and October.

The importance of goose breeding and rearing in Poland stems from the fact that a large part of the output, in the form of carcasses and parts, is destined for export markets.

Other equally valuable goose products include down and feathers, which are exported mainly to Germany, Japan, the United States, Switzerland and Thailand.

Goose meat is a Polish export recognized on international markets. Polish geese as a trademark enjoy an especially strong position in Germany, where they are marketed as Ganse aus Polen.
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