By John Farrant

GEESE numbers are going up, but how much and where from and to is an intelligent guess.

The biggest producers Kerry Foods know that they will grow, process and market some 90-95,000 in the run-up to Christmas and their information from retail surveys is that the total sold in the UK is around 160-165,000.

Add the foodservice trade and the ways that traditional geese are sold – farmgate, butchers and mail order – and numbers are hard to track down precisely.

Another way of approaching the statistics is to take the traditional production of the British Goose Producers Association members of about 100,000-120,000 and then add Kerry Foods oven-ready output, which gives a total in the region of 200,000.

Geese at Seldom Seen Farm, Leicestershire Geese going into the barn from a straw-filled corral, protected from foxes by black windmesh fencing at Seldon Seen Farm, Leicestershire
All types of growers are benefiting from the natural appeal of geese, fed on an additive-free diet, grown on free range just for consumption at Christmas.

The BGPA is attempting to give a further boost with their new poster “This Christmas try Traditional Goose”. This is backed by leaflets on buying, cooking, carving and recipes.

Similar information is being put out by the Goose Information Bureau, run by Kerry Foods.

The numbers grown preclude the traditional fresh bird, but all are marketed oven ready – 35% fresh and the rest frozen – to the usual outlets, but the difference here is that the supermarkets are the biggest category. Where all agree, however, is that consumers must expect to pay a premium price for a special product – no loss-leaders here.

  • Kerry Foods took over Buttons Geese, Norfolk, in 1990 and has steadily expanded the geese numbers. Sales director Tony Hughes puts the annual expansion rate at about 10-13%. This subsidiary of the global Kerry Group, in its poultry and fresh meat division, puts emphasis on ready to cook and speciality markets, with guinea fowl, ducks and turkeys also in its portfolio. The Ireland-based Kerry Group reported an operating profit of IR£104.9 million (UK£95m) on sales of IR£1.34bn in 1997. Within this, Kerry Foods recorded IR£28.2m on IR£516.6m.