Siberian Goose Down: The Rolls Royce™ or Rolls Royski of Goose Down?
I am often asked about the
goose down used in our down comforters and pillows; where it comes from, how it's cleaned, etc. All good questions from smart conscientious shoppers. Often, during the course of this conversation, I'm asked "What about Siberian Goose Down?" Another good question.
There is no such thing as Siberian Goose Down. In other words, Siberia is not a commercial point of origin for any type of goose down. We've been in this business for years and are quite familiar with the available sources, worldwide, for goose down.
Most of the worlds goose down comes from China. This down is generally considered to be of inconsistent and inferior quality. A much smaller amount (relatively speaking) of goose down originates from Europe, mainly Poland and Hungary and an even smaller amount from the United States and Canada. This European and North American down is generally considered to be of superior quality, mostly due to the harvesting, sorting, quality standards and sanitizing procedures which are very highly regulated compared to the relatively unregulated practices in China.
A major supplier of "Siberian Goose Down" states: "We have marketed and sold a high end, expensive, European region product called `Siberian Goose Down' for a couple of years or more in this country and world wide. We have never claimed this product to represent a single country of origin".
O.K., so Siberian Goose Down appears to be a "trade name". Pretty clever marketing I suppose and, if you believe the supplier, all quite innocent and on the up-and-up. Unfortunately, there are no standards of quality to back up the cache' that Siberian Goose Down implies to the uninformed. This product can come from anywhere and be of any quality, high or low.
Retailers and manufacturers, perhaps innocently, seem to perpetuate the myth by claiming that Siberian Goose Down is superior because the geese in Siberia grow larger cluster down because of the extremely cold climate.
Well, at least they get one thing right. The climate in Siberia is extremely cold, with temperatures down to 100° below zero Fahrenheit. This climate is far too severe to farm geese in. They cannot live there during the winter.
There really is, in fact, a Siberian Goose. It is a migratory wild bird (it leaves Siberia when it gets cold) and an endangered species protected by international treaty. Incidentally, it's breast plumage is red (where the down would come from) with the rest of the plumage being predominately black (see image, below). Siberian White Goose Down? Not likely.
There is also a very large population of the migratory White Snow Goose on Wrangel Island, a wildlife preserve north of Siberia. These geese are in residence only during the summer and are protected from harvest.
We think that, trade names aside, the use of Siberian Goose Down to describe a type of goose down implies a specific origin in a manner that is intended to enhance the perceived value of a potentially mediocre or even inferior product. We feel this is inherently deceptive.
Siberia has vast supplies of oil and gas, coal, timber, over 1/5's of the worlds fresh water supply, and is home to nomadic tribes that herd reindeer. But no Siberian Goose herders.
Siberia is a rich land with a sometimes colorful, sometimes tragic history. Given the apparent demand for "Siberian Goose Down" this region may be missing a significant opportunity to grow their economy. But until they genetically engineer some kind of superior Ice Goose capable of withstanding the extreme climate, Siberian Goose Down will remain a myth.
The moral of this story? Buyer beware, and do your homework. If a merchant is willing to take a Rolls Royski and sell it to you as a Rolls Royce™, what else will they try to sell you?
More information about Siberian
culture, economics and business | Pictures
and info about the Wrangle Island wildlife refuge | More
about Snow Geese
Update: The preceding article was written in 2004. In 2008, our supplier notified us that a very small quantity of goose down, purportedly from Siberia, had become available on the market by special advance order. This goose down is in no way superior to an 800 fill white goose down from Hungary, Poland or Canada.
However, since everyone and their mother seems to be selling "Siberian Goose Down" (far more is offered on the market than is commercially available), it is virtually impossible for the average consumer to know for certain if the down is genuine, or not.
Our advise would be to take a good hard look at the company that is offering anything called "Siberian goose down". Ask yourself why, with the inherently deceptive history of this "product", would any merchant (that cared about their credibility) offer it?
So, we believe that this article is still accurate and relevant and we're proud that we've ruffled more than a few feathers (and hopefully educated a few consumers) since its publication.
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