This year we are offering meat ducks in our farm store – and will no longer be raising meat chickens (though we will still have egg-laying hens). We are excited to share the story behind this big change, and hope everyone will come to see how eating duck will help Stone Barns support a healthy ecosystem and our work to manage ten times more pasture than we have in the past.
Why ducks? Many of the new fields we are managing have been hayed year after year, and as a result they have been depleted of essential nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. Luckily for us, grazing ducks and the manure they leave behind offer a great way to deliver high-quality nutrients to these pastures without using synthetic fertilizers. The ducks will bring fertility to lean pastures and make them productive once again, and when the pasture health has been restored we can bring other grazers like cows and sheep to those fields.
Ducks are very efficient at digesting their feed, and we can calibrate how much fertility is delivered to a pasture by keeping track of how much they eat. Their feed blend is made of mixed grains, and the resulting manure is of a great quality for our pastures. They also nibble on grass, unlike chickens, so we don’t need to bring as much feed from outside the property on to keep their bellies full. As the ducks munch grass and forage for bugs, they help disturb the surface of the pasture to create opportunities for new fresh grasses to come in. Their manure isn’t filled with as much nitrogen as chickens’, so their impact on the land is gentler. While chickens can offer some of these benefits, ducks deliver them more efficiently and effectively, making the switch to ducks a no-brainer for our agroecological goals.
But wait – you might think – don’t ducks spend lots of time in water? Don’t worry, our ducks have a fresh pool they can splash around in that moves with them as they are rotated across the pasture every day. The tall grasses keep them cool too.
So the question is, will home cooks benefit from bringing ducks on board as much as our pastures will? The answer is (duck) yes!
Jack, our farm director, likes to grill them on low heat to get nice crisp skin. Water fowl have lots of fat that is worth rendering out, which you can use to cook vegetables with or to confit other parts of the duck. Why not mix up your weekly chicken routine with those deep, delicious ducky flavors? You’ll be directly supporting the restoration of pasture lands in our ecosystem and living the value of farm-driven cuisine.
We know that this change will take some adjusting from our members and customers, and as always we are so grateful for your support of our work to continually increase our impact. Duck is available now in the Farm Store. We are developing a number of videos and recipes to help get you started in the kitchen with duck – check back here for more information throughout the season.
Watch Livestock Ranger Phil Haynes demonstrate how to break down a duck at home:
Here are some additional resources and recipes: