Gooosey Tenders

Blueskin Bay geese at dawn
Blueskin Bay geese enjoying dawn with no inkling of the chaos going down in our kitchen. Picture inspired by the “Lines” photo challenge.

We have been brainstorming goose product ideas among ourselves and a few choice people who are safe to come down this crazy rabbit hole. One off-the-wall idea has arisen from Grandma’s dog’s love of “Duck Tenders”…which is pronounced “Duuuuuuckyyy Tenders” if you are trying to his attention.

If you are not familiar with this product. It is dehydrated strips of duck breast, a kind of duck jerky. It retails here for about $4 to $9 for a 100g pack. We have dogs ourselves and we have never felt the need to give them treats, so I was ready to dismiss this product (which doesn’t even try to claim any health benefits) as quite unnecessary. However, the newly found capitalist in me can’t ignore the fact that there are people out there willing to pay the equivalent of $90/kg for desiccated dog snacks. That would be somewhere around $180 revenue per goose. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

A quick recon to the dog snack aisle of the supermarket (Where the pluck have I been? That did NOT use to be a thing!), revealed that these Duck tenders are invariably from China. That is not overly surprising since New Zealand has pretty much no duck industry to speak of (although I found some evidence that people do indeed farm ducks here). The Chinese Duck Tenders did seem to contain quite a few additives in addition to the duck. The packages stated sorbitol, sugar and salt. As well as a warning to only feed your dog a strict limit per day.

So, I think there could be the foundation of an idea here. Geese is a lean meat (not dissimilar from duck) which makes it well suited to jerky. Some googling has lead me to believe that fat in the jerky leads to rancidity and poor shelf life. Also, I think we would have a hard time convincing New Zealanders to eat jerky so we may as well feed it to the dogs. I could be wrong about that last point, since I was last to know about this dog duck jerky, kiwis may very well be chowing down on kilos of jerky without my knowledge.

So, first things first. Let’s see if we can get Grandma’s dog off his Chinese sugar and salt binge and switch him onto some healthier local goose treats. Imagine the joy on his face when he gets to eat more than one with out fear of overdosing on additives.

No one was feeling in any bloodlust today so I dug around in the freezer and found a bag marked “goose breast x3”. I do not remember putting that in there so I can’t answer to why there is not an even number of goose breasts. Anyway, this meat has literally been in there for years, so the answer is lost in the sands of time.

I waited until the meat was partially defrosted since it is easier to finely slice meat in this state. Fully defrosted meat is a slippery projectile.  Once I got the hang of it, I settled on slices about half a centimetre thick. I found a shotgun pellet in one of my slices, not ideal but a bit of steel probably has greater health benefits for a dog than a stomach full of sorbitol.

I laid the slices out on an oven tray and put them in the oven to dry. Since I had chosen a particularly dubious source of meat, I thought it would be prudent to start with a temperature hot enough to kill bacteria. So I cranked the temperature up to 180 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. This made the kitchen smell wonderful and I did briefly consider eating the meat for lunch.

Goose tenders drying in the oven
Goosey tenders drying in the oven. The instrument in front is our handy oven thermometer.

After that, I turned the oven as low as it would go (in our case about 60 degrees) and waited it out. I had a few smaller pieces that I cut before I worked out what I was doing and these were ready after about 45 minutes. They still smelled pretty good and kind of looked like the crunchy outside of a roast lamb. I tried one out of curiosity, it tasted a bit like liver. Not really to my liking, but probably exactly what a dog is looking for.

After an hour and a half in total, the rest of the slices were done. They seem to be darker and thicker than the duck tenders. My limited experience with eating geese is that it very much akin to lamb and these strips do kind of look like overcooked lamb.

Goose tenders
The finished product on its way to Grandma’s house.

I took some samples out to our farm dogs for testing. One dog ate his whole and almost took my finger with it. The other dog gingerly accepted his and took it back to his kennel for closer inspection. I don’t think treat feeding our dogs is about to become a thing for us. I had assumed that Duuuucky Tenders are a chew treat that your dog is supposed to savour, so I was worried that the dog who ate his in one fell swoop had discredited my product.

The inaugural box of gooosey tenders was transferred to Grandma’s house. Word on the street is that the dog loves them and that they are, in fact, supposed to be swallowed whole with no ceremony. This is promising.

There were some complaints that the slices were too thick to completely imitate duuucky tenders. So it looks like we are going to have to track down a bacon slicer or something similar for thinner slices.

Of course, this is not the only hurdle, I imagine we are going to have to comply with some food safety protocols and find a better way (not a shotgun!) to get the geese out of the sky and into the freezer. Watch this space!


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