Origin of Species

Virtually every domesticated duck kept in captivity today can trace its origins back to the wild mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos). The exception to this is the Muscovy duck, which originated in Brazil and can still be found wild in Central and South America.

Habitat. The natural habitat of the wild duck is in areas near rivers, lakes, and streams. Both tree-dwelling and ground-dwelling ducks exist. Over the years, domesticated ducks have become quite capable of living in a wide range of habitats and climates. Although ducks adapt quite readily to living in a variety of environments, unlike their chicken counterparts, they are seldom housed in cages.

Domestication. The duck was most likely first domesticated in India, China, or in both countries. Though records are inconclusive, it would seem that the duck was domesticated approximately 3,000 to 4,500 years ago.

History of Association with Humans. Since being domesticated, the duck has served a variety of purposes. For centuries, flocks of ducks have been kept to supply both meat and eggs. In addition to supplying food, large flocks of

Table 11. The 10 Largest Turkey Meat Producers (1997)

Country

Metric Tons

United States

2,499,000

France

745,000

United Kingdom

297,000

Italy

258,000

Germany

206,000

Canada

142,000

Brazil

110,000

Israel

76,000

Romania

44,000

Hungary

39,000

ducks were often employed to rid fields and rice paddies of unwanted insects and foliage. One of the most famous culinary dishes made from duck, Pekin duck (Bejing duck), made history in the United States. In preparing the dish, the skin of the fresh duck is pre-dried so it will become very crispy after roasting. The roasted duck is then hung for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature. In accordance with its regulations, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) called for refrigeration of the roasted duck. The proponents of the traditional Bejing duck fought back in court and won. Today Pekin duck is the only perishable cooked meat exempt from refrigeration.

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