Goslings born on goose farms in the Dakotas, Iowa, Montana, and Minnesota are sent outdoors to graze as soon as they grow feathers. This may be the only similarity between today’s goose and the one that was probably served at the first Thanksgiving. Goose has long been a holiday staple for Europeans, but breeders in the U.S. have had to work at improving the goose’s image—as well as the goose itself—before Americans would accept it. Improved feed and selective breeding help geese mature faster and bigger, to an 11-pound average, while keeping their fat to a minimum and their flesh tender. Even the color of their skin and feathers has changed, from unappetizing brown to snowy white.
Though often overshadowed by the more ubiquitous turkey, geese have come a long way since the first Thanksgiving.