It happened yet again this week; a customer came up and ask for a dozen eggs and I told them we are out of chicken eggs “but we have duck eggs available”. Sometimes they ask more about duck eggs. I tell them the nutritional benefits, that they taste similar, and how they’re great for baking. Sometimes they try a half-dozen, sometimes they go elsewhere for chicken eggs.
It may be the price that turns them away; at $10/dozen, my duck eggs are quite a bit more than my chicken eggs. But I think it is often the unfamiliarity and strangeness of duck eggs that causes people to stick with chicken eggs.
How are duck eggs different than chicken eggs?
The quality of the egg is determined by the poultry who made it. Our chickens and ducks eat the same GMO- and soy-free fermented feed, but the ducks tend to forage more. This is apparent when my ducks eat less in the summer than the winter, while my chicken’s food consumption doesn’t change as much. The ducks also forage longer each day. Visit anytime in the evening and you’ll notice that the chickens head to their coop around dusk whereas the ducks stay out until twilight (which is after 9 pm now that it’s June)!!! Good foraging means a more diverse diet and thus a better nutrient profile for the eggs.
Duck eggs are generally bigger; the eggs I collected today from my ducks ranged from 62g to 80g, whereas the chicken eggs were 54g – 69g, and my chickens lay pretty big eggs compared to most store-bought eggs! Duck eggs have a deeper gold yolk and whiter whites (albumin). The yolks have a higher fat content than chicken eggs and the albumin has a higher protein content. The real benefit to duck eggs when looking at nutrition is the vitamin and mineral content. If a duck eggs is on average 140% larger than a chicken egg (70g vs 50 g), then to compare the two we should look at the amount of a vitamin or minerals of an egg and multiply it by 1.4. If you’d like to try it yourself, there are multiple sites available but I used nutritiondata.self.com to compare chicken vs. duck eggs. Across the board, duck eggs have more iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, vitamins A, E, B1, B2, B9, B12, B5, choline, Omega 3’s and total protein as the same amount by weight of chicken eggs.
Duck eggs have a harder shell; once you get used to cracking duck eggs you will have a difficult time not smashing chicken eggs! A harder shell means the eggs may be able to stay “good” longer. Duck are messier than chickens and you will likely find some of them stained no matter how often we add more straw to the nesting boxes!
Duck eggs come in a variety of muted colors but most range from off-white to barely blue/green. The only exception I know of is Cayugas, whose bloom, or protective membrane that covers the shell when it’s laid, can be gray, even dark grey. The protective layer is easily marred when first laid so if the hen or another duck brushes it you will find lighter streaks and splotches.
What about taste?
Most of my customers tell me they don’t taste any difference between my duck and my chicken eggs; I don’t either. I have had a few people describe duck eggs as “eggier” and one as “creamier”.
Why are duck eggs called the “Baker’s Secret”?
Not only is a cracked duck egg more beautiful, but the yolk’s higher fat content creates a more rich pastry. The protein in the albumin causes the white to whip up higher, creating more loft when mixing and results in airier, higher cakes and baked goods. Since duck eggs are larger, if you have a recipe you are trying to perfect you can actually weigh your eggs to account for the size. a large egg is about 2 oz, so you can always weigh your eggs before adding them a account for the difference by removing some egg. I haven’t found it makes a difference; I just tend to use smaller duck eggs for baking and the larger ones for other cooking.
And if you are gluten-free, duck eggs will give you another advantage. According to Jamie Oliver “[duck eggs] are also a good addition to gluten free baking—what your baked good loses in structure by omitting gluten can be partially gained back with the denser albumen (egg white protein).” So if you’re gluten-free, give duck eggs a try in your next baked item!
What if I’m allergic to chicken eggs?
If you’re allergic to chicken eggs you may be in luck with duck eggs. Their protein is different than that of chicken eggs and some people have found they can eat duck eggs even when chicken eggs cause a reaction. Please check with your doctor before you give duck eggs a try, of course.
Why are duck eggs more expensive?
First and foremost it’s labor. Ducks require a lot more labor than chickens do. My chickens get a bit of straw every so often and a big coop clean out 1-2 times a year, plus daily feeding. Because ducks like everything wet, their coop needs more frequent cleanings and their nesting boxes need new straw every few days. Without it, the eggs would be dirtier and the ducks would be much less healthy. Secondly, ducks require more feed to produce each egg, even in the summer. And finally, duck eggs are larger so you’re getting more egg per carton; sometimes I have to rearrange eggs to get the carton closed!
What makes your duck eggs different from eggs I might buy at a natural foods store or market?
Our ducks are truly free-ranged! Their days are spent in a pond, a creek, or in horse fields (or my front yard/garden). The have all day to forage and are also fed GMO- and soy-free feed that has been soaked at least 12 hours and is fermented. This is especially helpful for ducks, whose natural diet is more likely to include soaked seeds because of their habitat of choice. A healthy diet leads to healthier eggs!
How/where can I buy duck eggs?
If you’re in or around the Frederick, MD area, stop by The Frederick City Market on Sunday from 9-1, from mid-May to mid-November. You can also contact me via email to see about the availability of eggs. There are usually copious amounts in spring and less during the remainder of the year.
Even better, I sell my eggs by the half-dozen also. It’s a great way to try a few!
If you live somewhere else, I recommend visiting your local farmer’s market. Even if none of the vendors sell eggs, they may be able to point you in the direction of another local farmer (we farmers are generally happy to share that sort of information)!