Soaring inflation threatens to overshadow one of Germany’s most famous cultural celebrations, which culminates in eating a roast goose.
a MartinsgansMartin’s Goose, or Martin Goose, is eaten on or about November 11 – Saint Martin’s Day – when the fourth-century Roman soldier turned saint who shared his mantle with a poor man is remembered across the country in processions of lanterns, songs, fires, and theatrical reenactments of his life.
Tradition says that Saint Martin, out of humility, hid in a barn full of geese to avoid being ordained bishop, only to have his whereabouts revealed through the croak of a babbler.
To commemorate him, people fatten a goose before a period of fasting, and often eat it again at Christmas, six weeks later.
However, a combination of bird flu and a sharp rise in animal feed and fertilizer costs increased demand by 100% in asking prices for birds, which are traditionally served with red cabbage, dumplings and broth.
Some restaurants said they had no choice but to drop the dish from their menus altogether, despite it being a mainstay on the culinary calendar, in the German-speaking world in particular. Others said they would require diners to pay up front before placing their orders with the goose farmers for fear that guests would inadvertently hesitate with the cost and refuse to pay, or fail to show up, leaving restaurants with an expensive bird and not taking it.
Lorenz Eskildsen, president of the National Rural Geese Breeders Association (BBG), said the higher prices were justified by the rising costs and increased risks faced by poultry farmers. “I think it’s reasonable and restaurants will have no problem implementing it.” Goose is a popular dish for both Saint Martin and Christmas, he told German media, “it’s hard to imagine that it would disappear from the menu completely.”
Eskeldsen said prices for the majority of geese, mainly imported from Poland and Hungary, had doubled, from €4.50 (£3.94) to €9 per kilogram, while German geese were about 15% more expensive, at a cost of around €17.50 per kilogram.
Organic poultry farmers were less affected, because they do not use chemical fertilizers, which are in short supply and whose prices have risen as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.
However, Ingrid Hartges, president of the German Association of Public Hotels and Homes (Dioga), said it was unpredictable what might happen, especially with many restaurants already suffering from rising costs of inflation and consumers reluctance to eat out. “No one can really imagine if people are willing to pay,” she said. “It is very likely that a few companies will not have to take the goose off the list.”
Andre Berthold, owner of the traditional eatery Neugrunaer Sportcasino in the eastern city of Dresden, said Martinsjan has formed the backbone of his winter trade, but he had to drop it from his list this year. “The purchase price has doubled, so I had to ask for 35 euros per part. But my customers don’t have that kind of money,” he told Bild newspaper.
Berthold said he was willing to buy a goose for clients who had paid him in full a week in advance. “For those willing to do so, I will bring up the bird, stuff it, roast it, and serve it.”
Meanwhile, game hunters with a license to sell it to restaurants have reported increased interest in wild boar and venison as more affordable alternatives.
“I’ll make sure roast venison and wild boar brisket are on the menu instead,” Berthold said.