Food Value of Duck
William F. Dean, Ph.D.

 
 

Properly cooked duck is both uniquely tasty and nutritious. It has been enjoyed by people the world over for centuries. Pekin duck, for example, dates back to the time of the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty in China, when this breed was first developed and became known for its excellent gastronomic qualities. The keeping of domestic ducks for food can be traced back at least 4000 years. Duck has been appreciated for its taste and nutritional qualities during periods of history when food was plentiful as well as when it was in short supply, and especially in the latter case. Today, duckling is still very popular and in strong demand in many areas of the world, especially in Asia. Preferences with regard to breed of duck and method of preparation vary widely. In North America, parts of Europe, Australia and in many other areas as well, roast Pekin duckling is a popular item on the menus of fine restaurants. Roast, braised or barbecued Pekin duckling is also popular among home gourmets. More recently duck parts, such as breast and legs have become more available, which offer more options for diet conscious consumers. Precooked duck parts which can be quickly heated in a microwave are also becoming more available.

In France, the Muscovy duck, which in the case of the male is noted for having a large amount of lean breast meat, has gained wide popularity in recent decades. In China, Beijing (Peking) ducking is a very popular item in restaurants in the larger cities. Beijing duck is also enjoyed in other areas of China, but the native Maya (house duck or Sparrow duck) is more popular in the countryside. Many or perhaps most Chinese prefer more mature ducks (Beijing ducks are usually slaughtered at 7-8 weeks of age). In Taiwan, Mule ducks, which are also noted for having a high proportion of lean meat, are very popular, both in restaurants and at home.

Among people who have never tried duck, or those who rarely eat it, there appears to be at least two concerns. One concern seems to be a lack of knowledge of how to properly prepare duck. Actually cooking duck is not too different from cooking other meats and once a few basic principles are mastered, most anyone can become a master duck chef. Information on cooking duck is available from sources such as the Duckling Counsel. The other concern among the uninitiated appears to be the somewhat higher fat content of duck, which is true of whole duck but not of leg meat or skinless breast. It is a well documented fact that problems associated with over-consumption of calories and fat have increased as the economies of many nations around the world improved during the latter half of the past century. Food has become more plentiful and affordable and the amount of physical labor required to earn a living has decreased. Concern over excessive calorie and fat intake is a very legitimate one and making intelligent food choices is essential to everyone's good health today.

One of the best kept nutritional secrets today, however, is that duck, as well as most foods, can be included in a nutritionally well-balanced healthy diet. As any competent nutritionist knows it is the actual intake of nutrients on a daily (or a period of a few days) basis that is important. Maintaining an adequate intake of the nutrients we need and avoiding excessive consumption of calories, fat and cholesterol, requires making intelligent choices with regard to the particular foods, and especially the amount of each food consumed. This is true whether duck is a part of one's diet or not. When duck ( or any of a long list of other foods) is included in the menu, some adjustments in the amounts of other items on the menu may be necessary. As demonstrated in the example below, however, these adjustments need not be burdensome. In contrast to the "good food/bad food" rationale (total avoidance of "bad" foods, eat only "healthy" foods) made popular by advertising and other media, many people can and do regularly eat a balanced diet made up of a variety of foods, including some foods mislabeled as "bad foods" by the "search and destroy" food gurus of our time. The fact that duck is usually consumed less frequently than meats such as chicken, beef or pork, makes it relatively simple to add duck to a weekly menu and at the same time adhere to the dietary guidelines of nutritional authorities such as the National Research Council, Food and Nutrition Board, which publishes Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA's), and without exceeding the intake of total calories, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). The choice of duck leg or duck breast without skin (see below) makes it even easier to meet nutritional standards with minimal sacrifices of other foods included in the weekly menu.

Basic to good meal planning is reliable data on the composition of the foods included in the diet plan. Fortunately extensive data on the composition of foods, including duck, is available from the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, on the website: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/index.html. Some of the nutritional values for duck have been summarized in Tables 1-5 below. Like other meats, duck is an excellent source of high quality protein containing a well-balanced array of amino acids. Duck also contains generous amounts of iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, selenium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and lesser amounts of Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and folic acid. See Table 2 for the percentages of Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA's) supplied by duck.

When compared on a "lean to lean" basis, duck is very similar in nutrient composition to other meats, as can be observed from the data in Tables 3-5. Duck leg meat (thigh + drumstick), with or without skin (Tables 3 and 4) or duck breast without skin (Table 5) contain relatively low levels of fat and calories, and compare favorably, even to chicken and turkey. These duck parts can be incorporated into the menu of the most diet conscious consumers without difficulty. Table 6 presents an example of how roast whole duck (including skin) can be incorporated into a menu for a day without exceeding limits on calories, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol recommended by AHA, and meeting nutritional requirements of humans according to RDA guidelines. The diet presented is for 70 kg (154 lb) adult males, 23-50 years, of age in physically light occupations. AHA guidelines limit fat intake to 30% of calories, saturated fat intake to 10% of calories and cholesterol intake to 300 mg. In this example, all these guidelines are met within a single day. Actually most nutrition authorities, including AHA, do not require that limits be met every single day so long as the limits over several days, such as a week, are not exceeded. It is obvious from examination of the menu that one does not have to "starve" at breakfast and lunch in order to enjoy duck for dinner.

ND = Not Determined
Table 1. Nutrient content of 100 gram (3.53 oz.) edible portions of various parts of cooked Pekin duck, with and without skin and fat (Data from USDA nutrient database, see References)

Nutrient

Unit
Lean meat + skin Lean meat only
Whole Breast Leg Whole Breast Leg
Food energy kcal 337 202 217 201 140 178
Fat g 28 11 11 11 3 6
Protein g 19 25 27 24 28 29
Calcium mg 11 8 10 12 9 10
Iron mg 2.7 3.3 2.1 2.7 4.5 2.3
Magnesium mg 16 ND ND 20 ND ND
Phosphorus mg 156 ND ND 203 ND ND
Potassium mg 204 ND ND 252 ND ND
Sodium mg 59 84 110 65 105 108
Zinc mg 1.9 ND ND 2.6 ND ND
Copper mg 0.23 ND ND 0.23 ND ND
Manganese mg 0.02 ND ND 0.02 ND ND
Selenium mcg 20 26 22 22 29 22
Thiamine mg 0.17 ND ND 0.26 ND ND
Riboflavin mg 0.27 ND ND 0.47 ND ND
Niacin mg 4.8 7.9 5.8 5.1 10.4 5.3
Pantothenic acid mg 1.1 ND ND 1.5 ND ND
Vitamin B6 mg 0.18 ND ND 0.25 ND ND
Folic acid mcg 6 ND ND 10 ND ND
Vitamin B12 mcg 0.3 ND ND 0.4 ND ND
Vitamin A IU 210 ND ND 77 ND ND
Vitamin E mg 0.7 ND ND 0.7 ND ND
Vitamin C mg ND 2.8 1.5 ND 3.2 2.3
Linoleic acid g 3.4 1.5 1.7 1.3 0.3 0.8
Satu. fatty acids g 9.7 2.9 3 4.2 0.6 1.3
Mono-unsat. fatty a. g 12.9 5.4 5.6 3.7 0.9 2.6
Poly-unsat. fatty a. g 3.7 1.6 1.9 1.4 0.4 0.9
Cholesterol mg 84 136 114 89 143 105
ND = Not Determined
Table 2. Percentage of Recommended Daily Nutrient Allowances (RDA) for 70kg (154 lb) adult males, 23-50 yrs of age, in light occupations, met by 100 grams (3.53 oz.) of cooked duckling (edible portion, various parts) Based on data in Table 1.

Nutrient
Lean meat + skin Lean meat only

RDA
Whole Breast Leg Whole Breast Leg
Food energy 12% 7% 8% 7% 5% 6% 2740 kcal
Fat 31% 12% 12% 12% 3% 7% 91 g
Protein 30% 39% 42% 37% 44% 46% 63 g
Calcium 1% 1% 1% 1% 1% 1% 1000 mg
Iron 27% 33% 21% 27% 45% 23% 10 mg
Magnesium 4% ND ND 5% ND ND 400 mg
Phosphorus 22% ND ND 29% ND ND 700 mg
Potassium 10% ND ND 13% ND ND 2000 mg
Sodium 2% 4% 5% 3% 4% 5% 2400 mg
Zinc 12% ND ND 17% ND ND 15.0 mg
Copper 11% ND ND 12% ND ND 2.0 mg
Manganese 1% ND ND 1% ND ND 3.0 mg
Selenium 29% 38% 31% 32% 41% 31% 70 mcg
Thiamin 12% ND ND 17% ND ND 1.5 mg
Riboflavin 16% ND ND 28% ND ND 1.7 mg
Niacin 25% 41% 30% 27% 54% 28% 19.0 mg
Pantothenic acid 16% ND ND 21% ND ND 7.0 mg
Vitamin B6 9% ND ND 13% ND ND 2.0 mg
Folic acid 3% ND ND 5% ND ND 200 mcg
Vitamin B12 15% ND ND 20% ND ND 2.0 mcg
Vitamin A 4% ND ND 2% ND ND 5000 IU
Vitamin E 7% ND ND 7% ND ND 10 mg
Vitamin C ND 5% 3% ND 5% 4% 60 mg
Linoleic acid 55% 25% 29% 21% 5% 13% 6.1 g
Saturated fatty a. 32% 10% 10% 14% 2% 4% 30.4g
Cholesterol 28% 45% 38% 30% 48% 35% 300mg
Note: Data from USDA nutrient database. Nutrients not listed in table (but listed in Tables 1-2) were omitted because values for duckling were not determined .
Table 3. Nutrient composition of cooked leg meat (with skin/fat) from ducklings, broilers, and turkeys,and, lean+fat from pork leg (ham) and beef round (amount per 100g edible portion)
Nutrient Unit Duckling leg Broiler leg Turkey leg Pork leg (ham) Beef round
Food energy kcal 217 232 170 273 240
Fat g 11 13 5 18 14
Protein g 27 26 28 27 27
Calcium mg 10 12 23 14 6
Iron mg 2.1 1.3 2.6 1.0 2.5
Sodium mg 110 87 80 60 61
Selenium mcg 22 21 40 45 27
Vitamin C mg 1.5 ND ND 0.3 ND
Niacin mg 5.8 6.2 3.3 4.6 4.0
Linoleic acid g 1.7 2.6 1.2 1.5 0.4
Saturated FA g 3.0 3.7 1.7 6.5 5.2
Mono unsat FA g 5.6 5.2 1.6 7.9 5.8
Poly unsat FA g 1.9 3.0 1.5 1.7 0.5
Cholesterol mg 114 92 70 94 80
Note: Data from USDA nutrient database. Nutrients not listed in table (but listed in Tables 1-2) were omitted because values for duckling were not determined .
Table 4. Nutrient composition of cooked leg meat (lean only) from ducklings, broilers and turkeys, and, lean meat from pork leg (ham) and beef round (All amts/100g edible portion)
Nutrient Unit Duckling leg Broiler leg Turkey leg Pork leg (ham) Beef round
Food energy kcal 178 191 159 211 191
Fat g 6 8 4 9 7
Protein g 29 27 29 29 29
Calcium mg 10 12 22 7 5
Iron mg 2.3 1.3 2.7 1.1 2.7
Sodium mg 108 91 81 64 64
Selenium mcg 22 41 50 28
Vitamin C mg 2.3 ND ND 0.4 ND
Niacin mg 5.3 6.3 3.3 4.9 4.3
Linoleic acid g 0.8 1.6 0.9 0.8 0.2
Saturated FA g 1.3 2.3 1.3 3.3 2.6
Mono unsat FA g 2.6 3.1 0.9 4.5 3.1
Poly unsat FA g 0.9 2 1.1 0.9 0.3
Cholesterol mg 105 94 119 94 78

Note: Data from USDA nutrient database. Nutrients not listed in table (but listed in Tables 1-2) were omitted because values for duckling were not determined .
Table 5. Nutrient composition of cooked breast (lean only) from ducklings, broilers and turkeys, All amounts are per 100g edible portion
Nutrient Unit Duckling breast Broiler breast Turkey breast
Food energy kcal 140 165 135
Fat g 2.5 3.6 0.7
Protein g 28 31 30
Calcium mg 9.0 15.0 12.0
Iron mg 4.5 1.0 1.5
Sodium mg 105 74 52
Selenium mcg 29.0 27.6 32.1
Vitamin C mg 3.2 ND ND
Niacin mg 10.4 13.7 7.5
Linoleic acid g 0.3 0.6 0.1
Saturated fatty a. g 0.6 1.0 0.2
Mono unsat f. a. g 0.9 1.2 0.1
Poly unsat f. a. g 0.4 0.8 0.2
Cholesterol mg 143 85 83
* Maximum amount recommended
** Only approximately 1/3 of phosphorus from plant sources is available
Table 6. Example of a one day menu for 70 kg (154 lb) adult males, 23-50 years of age in physically light occupations, which meets RDA/AHA guidelines and includes roast duckling
Menu for one day Amount Nutrient Totals For One Day menu shown on left
Breakfast Measure Grams Nutrient Unit Amt RDA %RDA
Orange juice 1 cup 249 Energy kcal 2730 2740 99.6
Toast, whole wheat 2 slices 56 Fat g 86.2 91* 95
Margarine,soybean 1 pat 5 Protein g 126 63 200
Honey 4 tsp 28 Calcium mg 1011 1000 101
Cereal, raisin bran 1 cup 61 Iron mg 23.3 10 233
Milk, 1% 1 cup 244 Magnesium mg 564 400 141
Coffee 2 cups 474 Phosphorus** mg 2101 700 300
Cream sub, powered 3 tsp 6 Phos. Avail** mg 1466 700 209
Sugar 3 tsp 12.6 Potassium mg 4773 2000 239
Lunch Measure Grams Sodium mg 2399 2400* 100
Clam chowder, redu. Na 1 cup 244 Zinc mg 16.5 15 110
Fish, flounder 1 fillet 127 Copper mg 2.02 2 101
Cole slaw 1/2 cup 60 Manganese mg 8 3 267
Fruit salad 1/2 cup 124.5 Selenium mcg 215 70 307
Bread, whole wheat 1 slice 28 Thiamin mg 2.53 1.5 169
Jam 1 pkt 14 Riboflavin mg 2.77 1.7 163
Milk, 1% 1 cup 244 Niacin mg 32.9 19 173
Tea 6 fl oz 178 Pant. acid mg 8.34 7 119
Sugar 1.5 tsp 6.3 Vitamin B6 mg 2.5 2 125
Dinner Measure Grams Folic acid mcg 659 200 330
Duck, roasted 1/4 duck 191 Vitamin B12 mcg 13.4 2 670
Orange sauce 3 tbsp 51 Vitamin A IU 13102 5000 262
Rice, white, reg 1.5 cups 237 Vitamin E mg 11.7 10 117
Broccoli 5 oz 140 Vitamin C mg 260 60 433
Peas and carrots 1/2 cup 80 Linoleic acid g 11.7 6.07 193
Bread, whole wheat 2 slices 56 Sat. fatty acids g 29.6 30.3* 98
Margarine, soybean 1 pat 5 Cholesterol mg 281 300* 94
Peaches, water pack 1/2 cup 122 Dietary fiber g 31 15 207
Whipped cream top. 2 tbsp 6          
Coffee 1 cup 237          
Cream sub., powered 1 tsp 2          
Sugar 1.5 tsp 6.3          
             

Dietary information contained on this page is not a substitute for medical advice. Consumers with medical conditions should follow all dietary restrictions prescribed by their physician.