For some strange reason, Americans have lost their historic appetite for duck. More’s the pity for duck is one of the most nutritious, flavorful meats.

Since the first settlers reached our shores, duck has been a constant source of meat. Easily hunted, simply cooked, it provided sustenance to our early settlers, to the men fighting in the Revolutionary War and to our citizens during World War II, when rationing curtailed beef consumption.

Though duck is native to our waterways and skies, in 1873, several Pekin ducks were brought to Long Island to be raised, establishing “Long Island Duckling” as the de rigeur gourmet poultry of New York. Eventually, all America was consuming them, particularly after Julia Child made Duck a l’Orange a favorite dish of the 1950s into the 1970s.

Our dear friend Michel Fitoussi, one of New York’s master chefs in the late 1970s and 80s modified the recipe using grapefruit, giving the dish a new twist. Today, chefs deconstruct the old recipe and create unique and wonderful dishes. Unfortunately, few among us seek to enjoy this marvelous meat.

Some may think duck is bad for you, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even though it’s a red meat, not white like chicken or pheasant, duck is far more nutritious and healthy for you than chicken. Unlike beef, duck breast has no marbling and the fat on duck is outside the meat, not engrained in it.

The cooking methods for duck usually renders the fat off the meat, while with chicken, we tend to cook it in fats, like Southern Fried Chicken. Even the sauces we use for duck have less fat than sauces used with chicken. None that I can think of are roux-based, and most are fruit- or reduction-based.

Duck presents a wide variety of preparation methods. I’ve enjoyed duck breast pastrami, roast ducks, grilled duck breast, and duck cooked in many regional cuisines. Not only do the French do marvelous things with duck, but so do the Italians, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, English and others. Today, the majority of Americans who eat duck are only those gourmet cooks who remember it from their youth and hunters (and their families).

We Americans need to sit down and enjoy try some duck. It’s delicious and a blank canvas upon which creative cooks may create many a masterpiece. More of us should eat it, regularly. Now that duck is available in supermarkets around the country, fresh or frozen, there’s no excuse not to try it.

Most of the supply is provided by Maple Leaf Farms which offers a range of duck products. As we used to say, “Try it! You’ll like it!”

Here’s the facts:
The nutritional data in this article are based on 100 grams of only the meat from a domesticated duck that has been roasted. This can be compared to the meat from one half of a roasted duck, which weighs about 221 grams.

Basic Nutrition
A 100 g portion of duck meat has 201 calories. Like all meat, duck is a great source of protein, providing 23.5 grams, or 47 percent, of the recommended daily value (DV). It also has 17 percent of the daily value of total fat, including a large amount of cholesterol (30 percent DV).

Duck is a good source of the B vitamins, providing 25 percent to 28 percent of the daily value of riboflavin and niacin, 15 percent to 17 percent DV of pantothenic acid and thiamine, 13 percent of vitamin B6 and 7 percent of vitamin B12. It also supplies smaller amounts of folate and vitamins A, E and K (2 percent to 5 percent DV).

Duck is especially high in selenium (32 percent DV) and phosphorus (20 percent DV), but it’s also a good source of zinc (17 percent DV), iron (15 percent DV) and copper (12 percent DV). Eating duck meat will supply 7 percent of the daily value of potassium and 5 percent of magnesium, as well as between 1 percent and 3 percent of manganese, calcium and sodium.

Other Nutrients
While it’s high in cholesterol, duck provides small amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to heart health. It also supplies 65 mg of choline and 8.4 mg of betaine. These two nutrients are important for cell membranes, lipid metabolism, nerve impulses and reducing levels of homocysteine.

The same serving size that includes the skin with the meat results in a significant increase in calories and fat. Calories go up to 337, and fat jumps from 17 percent to 44 percent total fat. However, the amount of cholesterol remains about the same, and the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids increase. Omega-3 rises from 140 to 290 mg, and omega-6 goes from 1,290 to 3,360 mg.

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