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UK goose sector faces labour challenges

Shortage of labour remains the key issue for the UK goose sector as the poultry industry struggles to replace the current shortfall.

Discussion at this year’s annual British Goose Producers Association meeting, held at Heart of England Farms, Warwickshire, revolved around the continuing challenges of sourcing sufficient labour due to a combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the producers said: “We wouldn’t be where we are today without our people. Labour is our biggest challenge at the moment.”

Around 250,000 geese are eaten every Christmas across Britain, and with the average bird feeding 6 people, more and more people are looking to support the specialist sector. Photo: Mark Pasveer
Around 250,000 geese are eaten every Christmas across Britain, and with the average bird feeding 6 people, more and more people are looking to support the specialist sector. Photo: Mark Pasveer

The meeting coincided with the annual Goose Farm Walk, which was highly anticipated after Covid-19 led to its cancellation last year. Around 30 producers shared best practices, discussed production methods and explored future developments in the sector.

Regaining its place on tables across Britain

Despite the challenges producers face, the most traditional of Christmas poultry is regaining its place on tables across the country. Around 250,000 geese are eaten every Christmas across Britain, and with the average bird feeding 6 people, more and more people are looking to support the specialist sector.

The event was hosted by Ole Gronning, who founded Heart of England Farms in 1983, which from modest beginnings has grown to become one of Britain’s leading breeders, hatchers and rearers of game birds. The farm also breeds pheasants, partridges, turkeys, cockerels and ducks.

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Ole Gronning and wife, Judy, bring knowledge and experience to the sector and are proud of their traditional rearing and preparation techniques combined with innovative technology. Hatching in early spring, the geese are moved form field to field to ensure a bountiful supply of fresh grass shoots with their diet supplemented by local wheat and home-grown maize. They supply, among others, organic butchers, Rossiters, in Birmingham.

Most ‘natural’ form of marketing

Attendees also hear how the farmland itself has proved to be a natural marketing element for the business. With the birds visible to both walkers and drivers along a popular commuter route, it has helped the couple bring in new customers. “We are really lucky that our geography is our most natural form of advertisement,” said Judy Gronning.