Chickens have always been the go-to backyard bird for people who want fresh meat and eggs for their families. But as with all other parts of life, things change. While chicken will always be beloved meat around the world, many are noticing that duck meat is quickly making its way up the ranks.
Ducks, like chickens, can easily be tended to on small farms or in backyard coops. While factory farms take on the responsibility of supplying gourmet restaurants with duck meat, small homesteads are realizing the benefits of raising these birds for meat and eggs to provide for their families. Here, we’ll take a look at the five most popular meat duck breeds. If you think you have what it takes to raise ducks on your homestead, you may find a breed suited to your needs.
How Do I Choose the Right Meat Duck?
Any breed of duck can be used for meat production but certain ones offer more meat, less grease, and better flavor. These are the breeds you should consider if you plan on raising ducks for meat supplying purposes. You’ll also find it’s better to choose larger duck breeds or “heavyweights” if you plan on supplying meat to your table or for local distribution.
Larger ducks have more muscle tone. This is helpful when it comes to meat production. You may also discover that most of these duck breeds are known as dual-purpose breeds. A dual-purpose duck provides excellent meat and has adequate egg production. This simply means you can benefit from having them on your farm and get the best of both worlds.
A duck breed that matures quickly is ideal when it comes to meat production. Most small farms or homesteads don’t operate on the same scale as large, factory farms. This means they cannot keep up with the continued costs of raising ducks that need additional time to mature. A fast-maturing duck requires less feed and care before it can be butchered and the meat processed for your family’s consumption.
How Does Duck Meat Taste?
You may expect duck meat to be similar to chicken, but that is a misconception. Duck meat has a gamey taste and is more closely related to red meat. If prepared the right way, duck meat is quite tender and features a flavorful, moist fat. Bad cooking methods will leave the consistency of the fat rubbery and not tasting that great.
You’ll also notice the skin on duck meat is thicker than that of chicken. Many who try to cook this meat struggle with properly cooking the skin. In some instances, they may prefer to remove it during the preparation of the meat to avoid any unwanted issues or tough meat.
When Should Meat Ducks Be Butchered?
Most meat duck breeds are ready for meat collection at around 7 to 8 weeks of age. Like with chickens, you will process ducks by plucking their feathers. If this method doesn’t seem like something you would prefer doing, the scalding water method works just as well. With this method, the duck is submerged in scalding hot water for at least a minute to remove the feathers. Once the feathers are removed, the meat is ready to be prepared.
The 5 Best Meat Duck Breeds
Now that you’ve learned a bit about the meat produced by ducks, let’s take a look at the five most popular meat ducks to raise on a farm or homestead. These breeds supply ample meat and many can be considered dual-purpose and provide farmers with creamy eggs as well as tasty meat.
1. Pekin Duck
The American Pekin is easily the favored meat duck in the United States. This duck breed is part of the heavyweight class and matures quickly. In most instances, the dark meat these ducks supply is ready to be butchered when the bird reaches 6 weeks of age at which time they will normally weigh about 6 pounds. A variation of the Pekin known as Jumbo Pekins can weigh up to 11 pounds when they are 12 weeks old.
The meat produced by this duck has quite a bit of fat content. This additional fat can be used in other recipes in the kitchen making this duck quite beneficial. These ducks are also considered dual purpose. The hens can easily lay up to 300 extra-large eggs in a year. Unfortunately, Pekin hens aren’t the best sitters. If you plan on hatching eggs to continue the breed, an incubator should be considered.
One of the best advantages of having Pekin ducks on your farm or homestead is their foraging ability. During warmer months, these ducks will easily find at least half the food they require. This will save money on feed during the raising process.
2. Moulard Duck
The Moulard is considered the second-most popular meat duck around. These ducks are sterile and are created when a Pekin hen and a Muscovy drake are mated. This result is a meat duck that offers large cuts and a more robust flavor than their parent breed the Pekin.
The Moulard is best known for producing red meat that is gamier than that of the Pekin. The breast of the Moulard is also larger and in some cases, juicier. When using the meat from this bird at your table, you will find it is leaner in comparison to the Pekin and has more fat than that of the Muscovy.
3. Muscovy Duck
The Muscovy Duck is the go-to for farmers or meat consumers who hope for leaner meat options. While this meat has a strong flavor, you’ll find that it has nearly 50% less fat than the Pekin and is 99% lean. This makes the Muscovy a great meat duck for those wanting to live a healthier lifestyle.
When raising Muscovy on your farm or homestead, you will quickly discover they aren’t as easy to tend to as the Pekin. While they try to forage for food, they are usually not successful. This leaves you tending to most of their nutritional needs. They are also not considered dual-purpose birds due to hens being bad egg layers. However, if you have neighbors nearby, the Muscovy is a great duck to have. These birds do not quack and therefore are no issue when it comes to noise problems.
4. Aylesbury Duck
The Aylesbury is a popular duck for people in the United Kingdom. The white meat produced from these ducks is packed with flavor and very tender when eaten. Unfortunately, this duck doesn’t have the greatest numbers and is considered vulnerable. This makes it difficult to find breeders.
Luckily, the Aylesbury is a fast-maturing duck. At 7 to 9 weeks, most hens weigh in around 9 pounds while males can be around 10. The hens are considered good egg layers, but calling this duck dual purpose would be a mistake considering their below-average sitting skills.
The Aylesbury is a great duck to have on farms and homesteads. These ducks stay busy and forage for roughly two-thirds of their required nutrition. This, and the amount of meat they provide, make them ideal ducks to have around.
5. Rouen Duck
The last meat duck we’ll take a look at is the Rouen. These ducks are known for the high-fat percentage in their meat. This fat is often used for making several dishes around the kitchen, including noodles. These ducks are often mistaken for Mallards due to their coloring but are considerably larger.
Maturity takes a bit longer for this duck breed. Your Rouens will need at least 14 to 21 days more than a Pekin if you want them at full maturity. At that time, drakes can weigh in at 8 to 10 pounds while hens are 5 to 7. This process may take a bit longer, but the meat provided is considered worth the wait.
Rouens aren’t considered dual-purpose ducks, but they are extremely close. Hens do an above-average job at laying and are fairly decent sitters. You’ll also find these ducks have a very hardy disposition and forage for most of their food. You’ll still need to help them out if you make them part of your farm, but they make things much easier on you due to their docile nature.
Keep in Mind
While some ducks are great at foraging for their food others aren’t. Providing meat ducks with proper amounts of protein is crucial if you want them to be at weight when they reach maturity. Always have poultry, game bird, or waterfowl feed on hand to provide your ducks. They’ll also need an adequate water source. For ducklings, however, only a non-medicated chick starter is best.
This look at the 5 best meat ducks is a great tool to use when deciding which breeds you would like to introduce to your farm. Keep their foraging ability, maturing times, and meat type in mind when making your choice. This will help you choose the best ducks for your situation. Before long, you’ll have a table of delicious meat and eggs for your family to enjoy.
- You may also want to read about: 8 Largest Duck Breeds (With Pictures)
Featured Image Credit: Dlabajdesign, Shutterstock