Ducks have many domestic uses, being farmed for their meat, eggs, and feathers and down. In many areas, ducks of various species are hunted for sport and food.
Types of domestic duck
- Broiler Duckling or Fryer Duckling - a young duck (usually under 8 weeks of age) of either sex that is tender meated and has a soft bill; ducklings classified as broiler-fryers weigh from 3 to 6½ pounds.
- Roaster Duckling - a young duck (usually under 16 weeks of age) of either sex that is tender-meated and has a bill that is not completely hardened; they usually weigh from 4 to 7½ pounds.
- Mature Duck or Old Duck - a duck (usually over 6 months of age) of either sex with toughened flesh and a hardened bill; these ducks are usually too old to lay eggs and their meat is used in processed products.
Almost all ducks are raised indoors to protect from predators and to manage their manure, which is collected and used elsewhere selectively as fertilizer. In the United States, most ducks are now raised in Wisconsin and Indiana since land on Long Island, N.Y., where most ducks were formerly raised, has become increasingly too valuable for farming. Ducks are fed corn and soybeans fortified with vitamins and minerals. Most feed contains no animal by-products.
No hormones are allowed in U.S. duck or goose production. The Food and Drug Administration strictly prohibits the use of hormones in these birds. Very few drugs have been approved for ducks so antibiotics are not routinely given and are not useful for feed efficiency. If a drug is given -- usually, through the feed -- to cure illness, for example, a "withdrawal" period of days is required from the time it is administered until it is legal to slaughter the bird. This is so residues can exit the bird's system.
Ducks swim, and they have a fat layer beneath the skin that keeps them buoyant and acts as heat insulation in cold water. Before cooking a whole duck, the skin should be pricked all over with a fork to help the fat to render out. This fat layer must have melted and disappeared for the bird to be done.
The fat is not "marbled" into the meat, so it can easily be removed from the surface of a raw duck if deboning the meat before cooking.
Retail Cuts of Duck
- Whole duckling including giblets and neck.
- Bone-in parts such as whole leg, breast quarter and breast.
- Boneless breast, skin-on or skinless.
- Giblets (liver, heart and gizzard) sold with whole birds, but much liver is sold separately, exp. in France.
- Tongues and Feet are considered a delicacy in East Asian cuisines, especially Hong Kong.
- Processed products such as smoked cooked breast, sausage, and hot dogs.
Quantity to Buy
When buying whole duck, allow about 1 to 1½ pounds of raw weight per person. Raw boneless meat yields about 3 servings per pound after cooking. Estimate 3 to 4-ounces per person for fully cooked products.
Is Duck "Red" or "White" Meat?
The definition for "Red" meat and "White" meat varies from place to place. Ducks are generally considered to be "Red" meat from nutritional standpoint due to its higher myoglobin content. From a culinary standpoint however, ducks are considered to be "White" meat.
The higher myogloin content allows the muscles of the duck to absorb oxygen more effectively, which makes it possible for ducks to sustain long distance flights. Consider chickens which rely heavily on their thigh muscles – this is why the drumstick meat of a chicken always looks darker than its breast meat.
Food Borne Organisms
As on any perishable meat, fish or poultry, bacteria can be found on raw or undercooked duck. Bacteria multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40° and 140° F (out of refrigeration and before thorough cooking occurs). Freezing doesn't kill bacteria but they are destroyed by thorough cooking of any food to 160° F.
Salmonella is often associated with shell eggs and poultry. It may be found in the intestinal tracts of livestock, poultry, dogs, cats and other warm-blooded animals. This strain is only one of about 2,000 Salmonella bacteria. Freezing doesn't kill this microorganism but it is destroyed with thorough cooking of any food to 160° F.
Salmonella must be eaten to cause illness. Raw poultry must be handled carefully to prevent cross contamination. This can occur if raw duck or juices contact cooked food or foods that will be eaten raw such as salad. Salmonellosis is a food borne illness characterized by stomach pain, diarrhea and nausea.
The USDA recommends cooking whole poultry to 180 °F (82° C) as measured in the thigh using a food thermometer. When cooking pieces, the breast should reach 170 °F (76° C) internally. Drumsticks, thighs, and wings should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 180 °F (82° C)
See our listing of Duck recipes.