Domestic ducks are breeds derived from the wild mallard or other species and have been selectively bred for various purposes. Here are some notable breeds:
- Campbell: Known for their egg-laying prowess, Campbells are a practical choice for farmers seeking a steady egg supply. They are hardy and adaptable, making them suitable for Alberta's climate.
- Cayuga: Recognized for their iridescent black feathers, Cayugas are valued both for their beauty and for their meat. They're a quiet breed, often chosen for ornamental purposes.
- Indian Runner: Famous for their upright posture and distinctive running gait, Indian Runners are excellent foragers and prolific layers, making them a favourite in free-range systems.
- Muscovy: Unique for being a breed not derived from the mallard, Muscovies are large, quiet, and known for their lean meat. They have a distinctive appearance with their red, warty faces.
- Pekin: The quintessential meat duck, Pekins are known for their fast growth and substantial size. They are the most common commercial duck and are also popular in backyard flocks.
- Rouen: Resembling mallards in coloration but larger, Rouens are valued for their meat and for exhibition. They are less prolific layers but make up for it with their striking appearance.
- Saxony: Saxonies are a multi-purpose breed, valued for both their meat and eggs. They have a distinctive coloration with a beautiful blue-grey hue.
- Welsh Harlequin: Known for their striking plumage and excellent egg-laying ability, Welsh Harlequins are a newer breed that's gaining popularity among duck enthusiasts.
The history of domestic ducks is intertwined with that of human settlement and agriculture. In Alberta, as in many other regions, ducks were initially raised primarily for food. Over time, different breeds were introduced for their specific attributes, be it egg production, meat quality, or ornamental value. Today, these breeds contribute not only to the agricultural industry but also to biodiversity in farms and homesteads.
In Alberta's culinary scene, duck meat is prized for its rich flavor and versatility. Pekin ducks, known for their tender meat, are often roasted whole, with their skin crisping up beautifully. Muscovy ducks, with their leaner meat, are excellent for grilling or slow roasting. Duck eggs, particularly from prolific layers like the Campbell or Welsh Harlequin, are used in baking and cooking, known for their rich flavor and larger yolk. Beyond their direct culinary uses, ducks also contribute to permaculture and sustainable farming practices, providing natural pest control and contributing to the health of the land.