Monday, November 1, 2010

Meat Processing at our Farm - the Muscovy Duck

We raise Muscovy ducks mainly for their eggs and to sell the ducklings.  The Muscovy duck is considered duel purpose, laying a lot of very large eggs and the male (called a drake) grows very large and is coveted for its dark, red looking meat.  The hens start laying in February, usually about five eggs per week, and the eggs are just as good as a chicken egg but much larger.  We gather all the eggs we can find but once the nettle begins to grow and gets large we start to miss some of the nests.  After a duck get about 15 eggs in her nest she becomes broody and disappears, sitting on the eggs for the next 35 days or so, until she emerges with 10 to 12 ducklings.  We then try to sell all of the ducklings we can, usually 70 or 80 in a year, along with most of our grown hens.  What we are left with becomes our new flock and meat birds.
Two ducklings waiting their turn

Yesterday I butchered six young drakes.  The feathers are very difficult to pluck so I skin them.  Most of the fat is in the skin layer so it also makes for a lean meal.  We do not feed our birds any corn so they don't put on much fat (I believe the commercial growers finish them on corn to bulk up their weight, corn being cheep and selling the birds by the pound adds to their profit).  I remove the wings as they are too difficult to skin and we lose a little weight and meat because of that.  Ours dressed out at 4.5 lbs, not bad for no skin or wings, and they are considered "ducklings" - they are not full grown.  Full grown Muscovy drakes will dress out around 8 lbs.  We slow cook them all day in a crock pot and the dish will give us four meals or so.  We have another four to process but will wait another 30 days or so as they are younger.

"Dispatched" duckling with the box I used in the background
My job is to catch the birds, dispatch them from this life, and skin them.  I then bring them into the house and Pam cleans and wraps them for the freezer.   I believe the best way to dispatch them is to put them in a box I constructed that is attached to a pole, head down.  Their blood runs to their head and it kind of makes them drunk; I then cut their juggler vain with a very sharp blade to bleed them out.  The complete process takes me about 30 minutes per bird, and we ended up with 25 lbs of meat for the freezer.

Pam not only cleaned and wrapped the ducklings yesterday, but made a batch of goat milk/oatmeal soap.  All of this accomplished and we still made it to a Halloween potluck dinner by 4 pm.  At the outdoor fire ring we talked of our ancestors who have passed before us, I talked of the six ducklings that gave their bodies to us this day for nourishment.     

Pam making goat milk/oatmeal soap

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