Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ducks for meat

If you are a vegan, vegetarian, or someone who likes to pretend that meat spontaneously generates out of styrofoam trays covered in plastic, you may want to skip this post.

Still here?

Ok, lets talk about ducks as a meat source. The main reason I have ducks are for the eggs, but when you raise ducks, there is always an issue of not enough hens and too many drakes. Since you only need 1 drake for every 4 or so hens, and ducks hatch out at about 1/1 male to female, what happens to those extra boys?

This is where the meat thing comes in. Lets face it, duck is delicious. Duck breast has a flavor closer to steak than chicken. The duck fat you get off a roasted duck can be used to cook other meals. The thigh and leg meat makes excellent sausages. The carcass makes a fantastic, nutritious bone broth. To put it simply ducks = yum.

The only problem with getting the duck to the point of being meat is that you have to kill the duck. Killing something is hard enough. When it is cute and you know it on a first name basis it is even harder. But the cold hard reality is that if you eat meat, something had to die for you to get a meal. Eating meat from an animal you know has received the proper food, lived in uncramped conditions, was perfectly healthy, and was allowed to live as naturally as possible is reason to be happy, not sad.

Meat that is raised on fresh air, sunshine, and natural food is going to be way more nourishing than factory raised meat fed corn and soy that is typically available in the super market. Butchering an animal might not be something most people are able to do, but it is something anyone who eats meat should consider. A chicken had to die for you to eat a McNugget, even if you can't identify what part of the chicken a McNugget is. Meat comes from somewhere, and it isn't from those yellow trays.

Having butchered 2 ducks so far, I can say that the quality of meat and knowing how the animal was raised is a big consideration. I am confident that the ducks had a great life, I know what they ate, and I know that is reflected in the nutrition value of the meat. As we get to the time of year when we hatch out more ducklings, the excess drakes will end up as food. I doubt many of my friends will be able to eat duck meat if they know I raised it. Even discussing butchering makes them uncomfortable. This is sad really. Why can they eat store chicken and not a chicken they saw walking around? What makes my duck inedible but crispy duck at a restaurant perfectly OK?

By removing themselves from the true origins of their food they can live in ignorant bliss. I guess I am much happier living in reality. I know where my food came from. Do you?


  1. We have a male who hatched from our last group that has been designated as "Potential Food Duck". He's getting bigger, but I'm still worried about when the time comes for him to go from yard to plate.

    Do you mind if I asked how you dispatched him? Would it be too gruesome of a conversation to have here on the blog?

  2. No, I think it is one that needs to take place. We used a killing cone. Place duck in the cone and just his head will pop out of the bottom. Use a very sharp knife to cut the jugular vein and allow him to bleed out.

    You can buy a killing cone...

    But I made one out of an old 12oz vinyl banner and some duct tape.

    Here is a good article in Mother Earth News detailing the process.

  3. I am looking at getting a rare enough duck breed that there's nowhere I can buy them sexed, so this is timely for me as well, as I don't wish for any drakes at all. How old do you let them get, or is it a matter of just waiting until they achieve adult weight for their breed? Thanks for talking about this!

  4. We are raising muscovy ducks this year for meat! We decided to do it after we had to dispatch five of our excess male guineas off to freezer camp. It was not hard processing them at all! I was much less grossed out doing that than I am just opening the package and rinsing off the disgusting store bought chicken.

    (I'm Traci Perg from the BYC forums)

  5. Kimberly, I am just waiting for them to reach full size, but if you time it correctly they are easier to pluck due to pin feather growth. I can't find the recommended dates right now though.

    Giselle, muscovies are supposed to be really tasty too. Several forum members at BYC use scovie thighs and leg meat to make sausage. Mmmmmm

  6. I have several friends who get all squeamish as well at the mere mention of raising animals for food. I ask them if they only eat suicidal chickens. I closed on a farm yesterday. I've decided if I find I can't raise animals for food, it's time to put my money where my mouth is and go vegetarian (I can just about say with certainty, that ain't gonna happen...) I think it's great that you get to know an animal and give them a good life before they become food. It should make us respect the sacrifice and appreciate the gift. I think it's much worse to pay 99 cents for a cheeseburger or questionable chicken parts. You know those animals didn't have a good life. Kudos to you! /gets down from soapbox...


  7. Good luck on the new farm Jeff! It still isn't easy taking a life, but I don't think it should be a totally easy thing. It helps you come to grips with the fact that something had to die to feed you. Do right by the animal while it is alive, make the death as quick and painless as possible and move on.

    I just butchered another drake today. He was totally rude and very mean to the hens so it wasn't as hard as dispatching the first two... :D

  8. I was wondering if it is still cost-effective to harvest the excess poultry as meat if one avails oneself of the services of a professional Butcher or meat market? I like the idea of providing a wonderful home, but I don't relish the process of plucking the feathers, also there might not be enough sausage quality portions at one time for a whole run of sausage unless combined with the production of another small farm. Also, I don't think it would be as discomfitting if the meat were no longer as easy to identify by name---such as after mixed up with other meats from the butcher. My sister never names those livestock expected to be butchered.

  9. Purely price-wise it may not be worth it if that is your only consideration. The extra cost may still be worth it to you since you know how the meat was raised and what it was fed. I would compare the price of having your birds processed not to cheap grocery sale meat, but to the pastured or organics.

    Another factor is how close you live to a processing facility. Not all meat processors will do ducks. I think the closest one to me is Simla.

  10. I have two male Pekins that we're raising for food and I'm going to be very particular about how I kill them. I'm already attached to them and want it to be as painless as possible. How quick do they die if I were to use a killing cone? Do they freak out? I would imagine so. I was thinking maybe just chop their head off with an axe but I'm still not sure. Any help would be greatly appreciated. By the way I love your duckpond post at BYC. So helpful

  11. I like the feathers but since I do crafts......The more colorful the better.