Along with chicken and turkey, we also raise pastured and free-range duck. Our white Pekin ducks are raised like our meat chickens, out on pasture in electronet fencing with portable shelters, moved to fresh grass when they have grazed down their paddock, and fed certified-organic grain. Our Muscovy ducks – in feather combinations and shades of white, brown, and black – free range about the yard and pond and return to the barn for shelter. They are a little slower growing than the Pekins, and seem to graze and forage a bit more. Currently our small flock of Muscovy hens are hatching their own eggs and brooding/raising their own young; our Pekins we purchase as day-old ducklings.
Duck is a darker meat, and less lean than chicken or turkey – flavorwise it might be described as more on the turkey side of poultry. A duck can be roasted or braised whole, or the breasts and legs can be cooked separately – the breasts are suited for the dry heat of a roasting, grilling, or pan-frying, while the darker legs and thighs do well with the moist, slow-cooking of a braise, or for use in confit or terrine. Ducks have a good deal of fat under the skin, which can be rendered for an exceptionally flavored fat for cooking. Muscovys are leaner than Pekins, described sometimes as having a more “beefy” flavor.” Pekins average around 4 pounds whole, as do Muscovy hens, while Muscovy drakes are larger, around 6 pounds.