Podcast

Podcast Episode 190: Green Chile Snow Goose Burgers

I created this recipe for Harvesting Nature’s 2024 Snow Goose Culinary Camp, which took place in Mound City, Missouri. My role there was camp cook, cooking instructor, and butchery instructor, but camp director Justin Townsend and I did get a chance to do a little hunting, too. I’ve got to say, we ran into quite a few birds. 

We were lucky enough to harvest several geese, which allowed us to experiment in the kitchen. One of the dishes we made for guests and staff was these green chile snow goose burgers, made from ground snow goose breasts and legs, pork, and bacon. 

While cooking them on the flat-top griddle outside, the snow geese continually streamed overhead, a cacophony of honks drifting down at all times.

In fact, anywhere you were in Mound City, you could look up and see endless giant V’s of snow geese streaming overhead, accompanied by constant honking. Millions of snow geese; what a place! 

The burgers made for a filling and tasty lunch, just what everyone needed before heading back to the pit blinds in a nearby cornfield. 

Any green chile burger is great, but made with wild snow goose? It’s like the perfect grass-fed beef burger with even more flavor.

Many people online have assured me that snow goose isn’t really worth eating and that the birds are nothing more than sky carp. 

Sky carp? More like hamburger of the sky!

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About Snow Geese

Snow geese are a species of goose endemic to North America, which can be split into two subspecies: the greater and lesser snow goose. 

Although they got their name from their white plumage, the lesser snow goose, predictably smaller than their greater cousins, can be found in two color phases: white and blue. White morph birds tend to be all white except for their black wingtips, while the blue morphs have blue or grey feathers on their bodies, with white feathers on the head, neck, and tail. These morphs are often called blue geese. Immature birds will often also show greyish plumage without much white on their heads or bellies. 

All adult snow geese share reddish feet and orangey-pink bills with black tomia, or cutting edges that almost resemble lips or a black grin. Along with Ross’s geese, snow geese are collectively called light geese, as opposed to the dark geese, which include Canadas, specklebellies, and Brants.

Greater Snows summer in northeastern Canada in their arctic nesting grounds and generally stick to a tight eastern flyway along the Atlantic coastal plains, often as far south as South Carolina. Greater snow geese weigh around 7-10 pounds and are less numerous than their Lesser cousins. 

Lesser snows summer in the Arctic from central Canada to Alaska, and use several flyways, including the Central, Mississippi, and Pacific flyways, to get to their traditional winter grounds on the Gulf coastal plain and spots in the southwest and on the Pacific coast. Lessers weigh about 4-6 pounds on average. 

Snow geese have a high-pitched call reminiscent of barking, and can create quite the cacophony when in large groups. They can be quite long-lived, with the oldest example living more than 27 years. It was banded in 1974 and shot by a hunter in 1999. 

Females generally choose nesting sites on barren land in the Arctic, where they lay 3 to 5 eggs, which take three weeks to hatch. Once hatched, the young begin walking immediately, and the mother and brood can walk miles in search of food. 

Snow geese have always been hunted and trapped for food, but by the early 1900s, uncontrolled market hunting, which people did to sell meat, had depleted the snow goose population so drastically that action had to be taken to save them. In 1916, the snow goose was fully protected in an effort to conserve the population. 

Those efforts worked and worked well. Maybe even too well, actually. 

Despite regulated hunting of snow geese being permitted for the last 50 years or so, numbers have continued to climb well past their pre-colonial population status and into problematic overpopulation territory. There are so many snow geese now that their arctic nesting grounds are being eaten clean, causing the geese to spread beyond their traditional grounds causing a potential ecological disaster. 

About Adam Berkelmans:

Adam Berkelmans, also known as The Intrepid Eater, is a passionate ambassador for real food and a proponent of nose-to-tail eating. He spends his time between Hull, Quebec and a cozy lake house north of Kingston, Ontario. When not cooking, he can be found hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, reading, traveling, and discovering new ways to find and eat food.

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