What are my special features?
The Authentic Aylesbury Duck has white feathers and a pink beak. The flesh is pale, soft and tender, with little grain and is less fatty than most other duck types. The fat is located in a thin layer under the skin and the overall flavour is good, with pronounced gaminess.
The feed is cereal-based, free of growth promoters and antibiotics with only essential vitamins and minerals included. The ducklings are traditionally killed at 8 weeks as they change feather at 9-10 weeks, after which they are classed as ducks. Older ducks of a larger size and more mature flavour are available when the breeding stock is killed at about 14 months.
What is my history?
The domestic duck is descended from the mallard/wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos), tamed in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago. By the 18th century, it was not clear how long before an ‘English White’ was bred selectively from the common duck of the village green and pond. The Aylesbury was appreciated for feathers, down and meat by the London market.
The old system of duck rearing ceased before the First World War, while at the same time hybrid ducks with Chinese blood became common. The Peking Duck arrived from China in 1873 and although such hybrid ducks provided the Aylesbury with a good cross and produced strong offspring, the popularity of the Aylesbury declined in the face of this competition.
Duck breeders tended to be farmers in outlying villages such as Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire, who kept the birds and supplied the eggs. The growers were the labourers and poor of the town who relied on the trade. Without the ducks, Aylesbury would be another little known town in the South of England.
Why am I forgotten?
Strict enforcement by the EU hygiene regulations have further decreased the number of duck farmers by vastly reducing the economic viability of small-scale businesses.
The term Aylesbury Duckling is misguidedly used by many people to describe all white table ducks, however, this is far from correct as the majority of ducks available are hybrid breeds. The exception is the exhibition or show Aylesbury which is still bred by enthusiasts. This duck is derived from the Aylesbury strain but is bred purely for show points and is not the true Aylesbury table duckling. Today there is only one remaining producer of the authentic Aylesbury Duck left.
Don’t lose me…cook me!