Ducks have been farmed for hundreds of years, possibly starting in Southeast Asia. They are not as popular as the chicken, because chickens have much more white lean meat and are easier to keep confined, making the total price much lower for chicken meat, whereas duck is comparatively expensive and, while popular in the haute cuisine, appears less frequently in mass market food industry and restaurants in the lower price range.
Ducks are farmed for their meat, eggs, and down. In Vietnam their blood is used in a food called tiết canh. Their eggs are blue-green to white depending on the breed.
Ducks can be kept free range, in cages, or in batteries. To be healthy, ducks should be allowed access to water, though battery ducks are often denied this. They should be fed a grain and insect diet. It is a popular misconception that ducks should be fed bread; bread has limited nutritional value and can be deadly when fed to developing ducklings. Ducks should be monitored for avian influenza, as they are especially prone to infection with the dangerous H5N1 strain.
The females of most breeds of domestic duck are very unreliable at sitting their eggs and raising their young, and it has been the custom on farms for centuries to put duck eggs under a broody hen for hatching; nowadays incubators are usually used. However, young ducklings rely on their mother for a supply of preen oil to make them waterproof, and a hen does not make as much preen oil as a duck; and an incubator makes none. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water.
Ducks are sometimes confused with several types of unrelated water birds with similar forms, such as loons or divers, grebes, gallinules, and coots.
The meat of a duck is mostly on the breast and the legs.
The meat of the legs is darker and somewhat fattier than the meat of the breasts, although the breast meat is darker than the breast meat of a chicken or a turkey.
As they are waterfowl, ducks have a layer of heat-insulating subcutaneous fat between the skin and the meat. Boneless duck breast is also called "magret" and can be grilled like steak, usually leaving the skin and fat on.
Internal organs such as heart and kidneys may also be eaten; the liver in particular is often used as a substitute for goose liver in foie gras.
Duck is often matched with fruit, as in the famous duck a l'orange, and works well with plums, pears and grapes. The breast is a favourite for Thai red curries, stir-fries and tandoori grills.
The size of duck breasts varies tremendously between breeds, but what does not change is the vast quantities of fat they exude. This helps keep the meat tasty and tender, but often requires that you remove a lot of it from the pan.
A duck has less meat than a roasting chicken of the same overall size. Chefs when portioning roast duck should give a quarter of a duck per portion. Attempts to get more portions out of a roast duck tend to result in some portions having a fair amount of meat and other portions being mostly skin and bone.
The Pekin Duck is the duck most people think of when they imagine what a domestic duck looks like. For this reason they are often called simply, the Domestic Duck. The most famous Pekin Duck is, Donald Duck!
The average lifespan of the Pekin Duck is between 9 and 12 years.
The Pekin Duck embodies what the classic white duck should look like. The Pekin Duck is a fast growing duck, the average mature Pekin weighs between 8 and 9 pounds. Their plumage is white and they have orange bills, legs and feet.
Pekin Ducks were imported from China into Europe and North America in the 1800s.
The Pekin Duck is an excellent egg layer that will often lay up to 200 eggs a season.
If purchased from a butcher, keep it loosely wrapped in foil or greaseproof paper; poultry packed in gas-flush containers should be kept unopened. Store on the bottom shelf of your fridge.
All raw poultry should be eaten within three days of purchase.
Duck is now widely farmed and readily available fresh or frozen
The feet and bills should be bright yellow
The upper bill should break easily
The web feet must be easy to tear