Duck is a small but growing component of the UK poultry market where, according to the British Poultry Council, it now accounts for 5% of the primary meat market.
In 2006, 18 million ducklings were reared for meat, compared with 860 million chickens (which make up 40% of the meat market) and 21 million turkeys. Only 5% of UK poultry are raised in organic or free range conditions.
As waterfowl, ducks have a layer of subcutaneous fat between the skin and the flesh, which is darker and fattier than chicken or turkey. Duck meat is mostly found on the breast and legs (which yields darker, fattier meat than the breast). Internal organs are also eaten, with the liver sometimes substituting for goose liver in foie gras.
Most cooking methods for duck focus on draining away the fat (which can be used in cooking as a substitute for oil or butter) although boneless duck breast (or magret) can be grilled like a steak with the skin and fat left intact.
Typical duck dishes include confit de canard (which consists of duck legs that have been cured in salt, and marinated and poached in duck fat with garlic and herbs), pressed duck (a dish that originates from Rouen in France), Turducken from the USA (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken) and the familiar Peking Duck from China which matches roasted duck with a distinctive dark sauce.
|Peking Duck from Silverhill Foods|
Ducks are the smallest members of the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and swans.
All domesticated or farmed varieties are descended from the wild Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) except for the Muscovy duck, which can trace its origins to South America.
The many domesticated species can be categorised by size. The bantam-weight breeds include the Call, the East Indie, the Mallard and the Australian Spotted. The lightweight class embraces the Bali, the Indian Runner, the Khaki Campbell, the Welsh Harlequin and the Magpie duck.
The Ancona, Cayuga, Crested Duck, Buff Orpington and Blue Swedish are all examples of medium-weight ducks while the heavyweights include the Appleyard, Aylesbury, Muscovy, Pekin, Rouen, Saxony and Gressingham (a Pekin and wild Mallard cross).
|Farmed ducks evolved from the Mallard (left) with the exception of the Muscovy duck (right)|
|Domestic breeds: Pekin (left), Blue Swedish and Breckland ducks|