According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 30 million ducks are raised each year for meat and egg production. Per capita consumption of duck in the United States is approximately one-third of a pound.
According to USDA data, 86% of U.S. duck producers were in three states: Indiana (2.278 million head, 45%), California (1.399 million head, 28%), Pennsylvania (628 thousand head, 13%). In contrast, Iowa’s duck inventory was only 0.1% (7,495 head) of the total U.S. inventory.
The great majority of ducks are raised on small farms and in backyards, but a large majority are raised on large commercial farms in the states of Indiana, Pennsylvania and California primarily, where the production culture is more rooted.
At one time, commercial duck farming was centered on Long Island, New York, where in 1873 a Pekin duck and three exceptionally large hens were imported from China. Thanks to an abundance of sweet water and a market teeming with young ducks in New York City, the industry reached its peak with more than 16 million ducks raised on Long Island farms. Because of this history, “Long Island Duck” has become synonymous with quality for commercially raised ducks sold in both restaurants and grocery stores.
Duck production measured in tons of chilled and frozen duck meat is estimated to have reached a volume of 61,607 mt in the last period. Although production was down from previous years (62,395 MT), it was the second highest production year in the 17 years of available data.
The USDA reported that Americans consume about 0.33 pound of duck per person per year. High-value duck products include liver pate, down feathers and smoked meat products. Tongues and leg products are also used as a delicacy, mostly exported to Hong Kong, although some are used by Asian Americans.
The production standard for commercial ducks is that they are ready for processing in only 49 days, reaching an average weight of more than 3.6 kilograms.
About ten million duck eggs are produced in the United States, and few people know that ducks can be better egg producers than chickens. While a commercial strain of White Leghorn will produce 250 to 280 eggs per year, commercial egg producing ducks will produce 300 to 350 eggs per year.
Production duck eggs are 32-34 ounces per dozen. Ducks consume 20-30% more feed per dozen than hens but can forage more than hens if allowed out to graze.
Duck eggs are slightly more nutritious than chicken eggs. They are richer in Omega 3 fatty acids and stay fresh longer. The whites of duck eggs (albumen) are thicker and richer than those of chicken eggs, which is why they are highly valued for certain bakery products.
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in niche markets in the United States for duck meat and eggs, but still lagging behind the turkey and chicken market. Duck products are often found at farmers’ markets, in specialty grocery stores, and more and more chefs are including duck on their menus. Producers know that the more people know about the benefits they bring, the more the market will continue to grow and become more competitive, especially those raised under organic standards, and the key is to be able to accompany them in the challenges they will bring.
Author: Felipe Mendy