Raising the Best Ducks for Meat
Raising Ducks for Meat is a Healthy Choice
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Raising the best ducks for meat is a highly healthy way to incorporate nutrient-dense protein into your diet. Not only is consuming duck meat a healthier choice than other proteins, but they are also easier to raise and ideal for smaller properties.
Duck is much more flavorful than chicken and turkey due to being richer, with a slightly savory and sweet taste. The meat is similar in flavor to the dark meat found on chicken and turkey, though those who consume duck meat regularly claim it is closer to red meat, with the texture and appearance similar to a good cut of steak.
Duck is an excellent nutrient-dense protein filled with essential and non-essential amino acids, containing less saturated fat than most red meats. In addition to this, duck meat is high in:
- B-12 and other B vitamins
- omega-3 fatty acids
Duck fat is a healthier cooking option than butter, lard, or tallow, though I would not substitute it for buttering bread or baking.
Domestically raised ducks have a much different flavor than wild Mallard. Domestic meat is dark, fatty, and full in flavor. The easiest method of consumption is to smoke or slow roast it, allowing the fat to absorb into the meat. Ducks have more fat than other poultry, and how much fat remains on a duck depends on how it is prepared.
For those new to consuming duck meat, try preparing a light, roasted duck breast salad with ginger/lime dressing. Or try smoked duck breasts. Both recipes are extremely easy to make and ideal for the individual who is new to preparing home-raised duck.
Raising Pekin Ducks
The most popular duck breed for meat is the Pekin. This breed available in two varieties, standard and jumbo, both ideal for meat consumption. In addition, Pekin ducks lay up to 200 eggs per year. Unfortunately, they are not great broody hens, making incubating eggs necessary.
Because of the white feathers, Pekin carcasses dress clean, leaving no colored pin feathers behind. Both the standard and the jumbo breed can be butchered as early as six weeks; however, butchering at 12 weeks provides a higher yield in meat. The standard Pekin duck will weigh in at roughly seven pounds. The jumbo males dress at roughly 11 pounds, with the female dressing at roughly nine pounds.
Other duck breeds are excellent for meat. A few of these breeds are on the Livestock Conservancy list.
Selecting the Best Breed for Raising Ducks for Meat
When raising heritage duck breeds for meat, the butchering time will vary based on the breed and the desired weight. Of course, as with any animal being raised for meat, the older the animal, the tougher the meat will be. At that point, the animal is designated a stewing bird.
To assist with supporting quick growth, offer the same type of feed and follow the same feeding pattern used for broiler chickens.
The choice to keep them in a tractor and on pasture is up to you; however, the breeds listed below are excellent at free-ranging and returning to the coop each night.
An English breed listed as critical on the Livestock Conservancy website. Unlike the other breeds listed here, the Aylesbury is known for meat, only laying 35 to 125 eggs per year. Aylesbury ducks have a great bone to meat ratio, with males weighing in around 10 pounds and females about nine pounds. Butcher as early as eight weeks.
Buff or Orpingtons
Buffs are an English breed listed on the Livestock Conservancy list as threatened. In addition to meat, the Buffs are also good layers. Males weigh in at roughly eight pounds and females at seven pounds. This breed matures quickly and can be butchered as early as eight to 10 weeks.
An American breed listed on the Livestock Conservancy list as “watch.” This beautiful all-black duck is known for its stunning eggs, ranging in color from light grey to deep charcoal. The large Cayuga duck breed reaches maturity between 12 to 16 weeks, with the males weighing in at roughly eight and the females at seven pounds.
This breed makes raising ducks for meat an easy and excellent option. The hens are excellent broodies and can sit on a huge clutch of eggs. The Muscovy duck breed is milder in flavor with a quicker grow-out of all the breeds, reaching maturity at 12 to 16 weeks of age. Males weigh in at roughly 10-15 pounds, and the hens at five to seven.
A dual-purpose French breed which is known for its amazing deep meat and fat flavor and is listed as a watched breed on the Livestock Conservancy List. Males weigh around 10 pounds, whereas females weigh around eight pounds. Ideal butchering time is around 18 months.
The Silver Appleyard duck is a dual-purpose English breed that is listed as threatened on the Livestock Conservancy List. Males weigh around nine pounds, whereas females weigh around eight pounds. The ideal butchering time is around eight to 10 weeks.
Prior to incorporating waterfowl onto the property, learn more about raising backyard ducks and the type of housing and feed needed for this type of domestic poultry.
Do you raise ducks for meat? What are your favorite breeds? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Originally published in the June/July 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.