Soaring inflation threatens to cast a shadow over one of Germany’s most popular cultural festivities, which culminates in eating roast goose.
A Martinsgansor martin goose, is eaten on or about November 11 – St. Martin’s Day – when the 4th-century Roman soldier-turned-saint who shared his coat with a pauper is remembered across the country by parades of lanterns, songs, bonfires and theatrical performances. reenactments of his life.
Tradition has it that out of humility, Saint Martin hid in a barn full of geese to avoid being ordained a bishop, only to have his whereabouts revealed by the cries of the flock.
To commemorate it, people fatten up goose before a period of fasting, and often eat it again at Christmas, six weeks later.
However, a combination of avian flu and a sharp rise in feed and fertilizer costs has led to a 100% increase in asking prices for the bird, which is traditionally served with red cabbage, dumplings and sauce.
Some restaurants said they had no choice but to remove the dish from their menus altogether, despite it being a mainstay on the culinary calendar, especially in the German-speaking world. Others said they would ask diners for prepayment before placing their orders with goose farmers, lest unwitting guests balk at the price and refuse to pay, or show up, leaving restaurateurs with an expensive bird and no taker.
Lorenz Eskildsen, the head of the National Association of Rural Goose Breeders (BBG), said the price hikes were justifiable because of the rising costs and higher risks faced by poultry farmers. “I think they’re reasonable and restaurants will have no problem implementing them.” Goose is such a popular dish on St. Maarten and Christmas, he told German media, “that it is hardly imaginable that it will disappear from the menu altogether”.
Eskildsen said prices for the majority of geese, imported mainly from Poland and Hungary, had doubled from €4.50 (£3.94) to €9 a kg, while German geese were around 15% more expensive, costing around €17.50 per kg.
Organic poultry farmers have been less affected, as they do not use chemical fertilizers, which are in short supply and the prices of which have skyrocketed following the invasion of Ukraine.
However, Ingrid Hartges, head of the German Association of Hotels and Public Houses (Dehoga), said what could happen was unpredictable, especially with many restaurants already struggling with high inflation costs and the consumers are cutting back on their restaurant meals. “No one can really predict whether people will be willing to pay,” she said. “A small number of companies may well be forced to take goose off the menu.”
André Berthold, owner of the traditional Neugrunaer Sportcasino pub-restaurant in the eastern city of Dresden, said Martinsgans formed the backbone of his winter business but he had been forced to drop it from his menu this year. “The purchase price has more than doubled, so I would have to ask €35 a portion. But my clients don’t have that kind of money,” he told Bild newspaper.
Berthold said he was willing to buy goose for customers who paid him in full a week in advance. “For those willing, I’ll fetch the bird, stuff it, roast it, and serve it.”
Meanwhile, game hunters with restaurant licenses have reported renewed interest in wild boar and venison as more affordable alternatives.
“I’ll make sure roast venison and wild boar goulash are on the menu instead,” Berthold said.