While we may forever debate whether the chicken or the egg came first, one thing is certain – duck eggs have arrived.
Poultry farms in Wisconsin are noticing greater consumer interest in duck eggs. According to Nancy Kellner of Kellner’s Back Acre Garden in Denmark, Wisconsin, the farm’s birds can’t lay eggs fast enough.
“We have 300 ducks and we can’t keep up with our orders,” said Kellner, attributing the popularity in part to duck eggs being an option for people allergic to chicken eggs.
“We started with the ducks because our daughter was allergic to chicken eggs,” she said. But that’s not the only benefit they’ve found.
“They contain more omega-3 fatty acids and more protein than a chicken egg. Whatever a chicken egg has, a duck egg has more,” she said.
Paul Sherwood of Sherwood Game Farm in Racine agrees on all points.
“They contain more vitamin A and 50% more or more omega-3 fatty acids.”
John McConville of Farm Happy in Jackson says he simply prefers the duck egg for cooking.
“Personally, I find duck eggs are better — the white part is whiter or clearer and the forks are just bigger overall, which is what you want if you like an egg that’s too light.”
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An easy substitute in recipes
While some may see this era as ducks’ debut on the mainstream egg scene, McConville said that at one point in American history, ducks were the dominant egg layers.
“They’re supposed to be tougher birds that can handle colder weather. They just seem to get the better of the chickens,” he said.
But as soon as the Leghorn chicken arrived on the American coast (from Italy), it produced the ducks and so ducks were left on the sidelines.
But coming back to the present, how do duck eggs compare to chicken eggs when it comes to baking when preparing your spring break treats? All three farmers say that when it comes to baking, it’s a one-for-one exchange.
“I’m not changing anything,” said Kellner. “When I make brownies. and it asks for an egg. I would put an egg in it and it’s really good. And they make really good french toast.”
“They’re really good for baking — pastries and certain types of cookies, cakes and meringues, whatever,” Sherwood said. “I’ve actually had a lot of chef friends who like to bake with them because things come out better. And it’s just wetter because of the larger yolk,” McConville said.
“A lot of bakers just pick eggs for the wetter texture.”
McConville is a big fan of the taste of duck eggs themselves. While you might not notice the difference from a chicken egg to a duck egg right away, you will taste the difference if you go back to a chicken egg after trying the duck, he said.
“You’re like, whoa, that’s another thing,” McConville said. “I think they’re a lot tastier. It’s just a better egg overall.”
Duck eggs cost more than chicken eggs — for example, $5.99 for a half-dozen waiter’s duck eggs at Outpost Natural Foods, $8 for a dozen Magic Willows Farm eggs at the Hartford Public Market. Although they’re a 1-for-1 substitution for baking, Kellner says it’s more like a 3-for-1 for an omelette.
“They are more filling. So you only have to eat one duck egg instead of three chicken eggs,” said Kellner.
Newcomers and long-established
Although the Kellners have only been selling duck eggs for a relatively short time, they have been farming for about 40 years.
“Now we’re really just a poultry farm. And we have some cattle and some pigs. And lots of goats. Goats are just a novelty for the farm,” said Kellner.
Farm Happy, which McConville runs with his partner Jennifer Gordon, has been operational for a shorter time.
“We have had ducks for five years. It’s more of a side note. We really enjoy having the animals around, but we’re definitely more of a vegetable farm,” he said.
On the other hand, Paul Sherwood has been breeding ducks for a long time. “All my life – for 54 years.”
The disadvantage of duck breeding
Whether it’s been years or decades, duck farming can present its own challenges, even for experienced farmers.
“They’re just sloppier animals because they love water. So in winter you always have to clean the barns because they get water everywhere. We haven’t really figured out an easy way to get it so the water doesn’t run everywhere,” said Kellner.
McConville feels her pain.
“Ducks are also much more difficult to care for because of the water. And when they get a whole lot of it, they turn it into mud. And they dig all these holes. The chickens really want dry feet. The ducks just want to turn everything into mud.
“They are almost worse than pigs. To be honest I don’t really recommend people to get ducks. As fun as they are – and the eggs are delicious – it’s a lot of work. They turn their enclosure into mud very easily, and that later creates other problems for the other animals, which always live in muddy conditions,” McConville said. “It took us a long time to figure out how to work with the ducks. I recommend looking into chickens first, and ducks more as a side note.”
Where they find their duck eggs
Waiter Farm has been selling duck eggs through Outpost stores in the Milwaukee area for six years and most recently at Slow Pokes Local Foods, 1229 12th Ave. in Grafton.
The Kellners have also converted an old milk barn on their property into a shop front, at 5561 Cooperstown Road in Denmark.
“We sell a lot of eggs here on the farm – chickens and ducks, and our turkeys are laying right now. So we make turkey eggs too. If people can’t get the duck eggs, they go for the turkey.”
Customers can also order through the website, kellnerbackacregarden.com.
As Farm Happy is a smaller producer, it only sells through its website, farmhappyjackson.com.
Sherwood Game Farm, 2713 3 Mile Road in Racine, sells to stores, restaurants and consumers, and at farmers markets including Oak Creek Farmers Market and Kenosha Indoor and Outdoor Markets. Duck eggs can be found on his website, sherwood-gamefarm.com.
Magic Willows Farm, 6340 Arthur Road in Hartford, is known for its alpacas and farm tours, but also sells its duck eggs at the Hartford Public Market and in its farm shop.
Cathy Jakicic is a longtime Milwaukee journalist who has written on a variety of topics, but anything food-related are her favorites.
ounce for ounce
According to the Healthline website, an average duck egg weighs about 2.5 ounces, compared to the average chicken egg, which is about 1.8 ounces. But while the duck egg is less than 50% larger than a hen’s egg, the yolk of a duck’s egg is nearly twice the size of a chicken’s.
Because the yolk contains fat and cholesterol, 3.5 ounces of duck egg has almost twice the fat of a similar amount of chicken egg: 18.5 grams versus 11 grams in one chicken egg. Also, a duck egg contains 276% of the daily recommended adult cholesterol, while a chicken egg contains 92%.
But in addition to the more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, a duck egg contains more of many vitamins and minerals, including 168% versus 32% of the daily recommended amount of B12.
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