What makes a good duck?
My spouse loves duck and has been asking me to get some. But I realized that I don't know how to buy "good" duck. Going out and shooting my own is probably out of the question. The local farmers I buy most of my meat from don't raise ducks, and so it'll be the farmers' market or the supermarket. If I go to the farmers' market, what should I look for? What should a "good" duck have eaten? How bad are the ones I'm likely to find in the freezer case at the supermarket, and why are they bad (other than blandness)? Are there brands with large-ish distribution worth seeking out? How much of this would also apply to goose?
(And yes, I realize that certain corners of the paleosphere would probably advise avoiding duck altogether. For the sake of discussion, let us assume that it's a given that duck is on the menu.)
I would shop around at the farmer's market and on online directories like localharvest.org. The best duck will be pastured and fed non-soy/corn rations, but that is tough to find these days. Bartering with a hunter is another option.
I end up eating some duck fed corn/soy. I just don't make it my staple meat, but there is a real niche that's not being filled out there. If a farmer came to me telling me that they feed their pastured ducks a ration of non-gluten grains/fish meal, I would buy a ridiculous amount!
The most common choice for duck is a Pekin variety like Maple Leaf Farms. Yes, these ducks are raised on an industrial scale but the flavor is pretty good. You will also get a LOT of fat from these ducks which can be rendered down and used for preserving meats, using a cooking fat and for rubbing on your skin.
Farmers markets may sell a "wild" type of duck that is going to be quite a bit leaner. But the flavor of this duck will be much richer, complex and will remind you of wild meat--as it should.
Really, a piece of meaty duck cooked medium rare is a carnivorous delight. It is minerally, fleshy and juicy. I'd almost say it can be just as beefy as a steak but even more so if that makes any sense.
I prepared an instructional video on breaking down a duck if anyone is interested: http://thepleasanthouse.com/2009/09/14/getting-the-most-out-of-your-food-whole-animal-butchery-duck/
About once a month, I will go to a local Chinese BBQ place and buy a whole Peking duck. You've seen them before, they hang in the windows and they look like this:
Caveat: I assume this are factory-farmed and fed the typical cheap grain/soy whatever. So, you may not want to do this.