The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs

I have been featuring various idioms, their origins and meanings on my writing blog. Some of these feature bird related topics or words. Today I highlight another of these interesting expressions.

This week’s idiom: “To kill the goose which lays the golden eggs.”


This saying comes from the Aesop’s fable The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs.

A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose which laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it in order to secure the whole store of precious metal at once. But when they cut it open they found it was just like any other goose. Thus, they neither got rich all at once, as they had hoped, nor enjoyed any longer the daily addition to their wealth. (From Wikipedia)


The commonly used meaning of this expression relates to the act either and individual or an organisation that abuses a source of income or profit through excessive greed to the point where that income is destroyed.


By not looking after the needs of his customers, the shopkeeper killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.


The photo below shows a Cape Barren Goose, an Australian bird. It does not lay golden eggs. Some entrepreneurs tried to harvest these birds from the wild for use in their restaurants here in South Australia. They were soon stopped because the total world population is only something like eight to ten thousand. Such slaughter would inevitably have resulted in “killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.”

Cape Barren Goose

Cape Barren Goose


4 Responses to “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs”

  1. John Tongue says:

    Hi Trevor,
    There is a fellow on Flinders Island with a licence to take a set number of eggs from wild Cape Barren Goose nests on the islands, to incubate to hatching, rear the goslings, and then process for goose meat, sausage, etc. I’m led to believe it’s well monitored, and quite sustainable.

    Cape Barren Geese were also intorduced to Maria Island, in Tassie, in the ’60’s as a backstop, should they become more endagered in their normal habitat. They have become so successful on Maria Island that they periodically eat themselves out of pasture there, and then either leave and become a problem to farmers in ‘mainland’ Tassie, or National Parks have to cull some.

  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks for that John. I seem to remember some controversy several years ago over on Eyre Peninsula near Pt Lincoln where this sepcies had become a pest species on the local pastures. If I remember correctly it was over there that they were used in restaurants.

    Sounds like a similar scenerio to the one you describe on Maria Island.

    I wasn’t aware of the use of this species in a sustainable industry as you describe. I wonder what they taste like?

  3. John Tongue says:

    We were offered goose sausage when we visited friends on Flinders Island some years ago, but when the friend went to buy the sausage, the local shop was out! I’ve never seen it commercially available anywhere else in Tassie, though I’ve never really looked, either. It may only be available on Flinders.

  4. Trevor says:

    I was offered the taste of an emu sausage at a farming field day about six years ago. It tasted quite good and they claimed it was going to be readily available in supermarkets but I’ve not heard anything about it since. I guess it went to way of all “next best thing” fads.

    It is interesting to note that kangaroo steak is quite readily available in restaurants. Here in Murray Bridge we have a restaurant run by an Aboriginal cooperative where you can eat a variety of bush tucker foods but they are mostly from plants.

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