DuckMobile: Maple Leaf Farms gets its ducks on the road
When was the last time you ate duck?
Most of us encounter it rarely at best, so it might have been while feeling adventurous at a Chinese spot, or for a special meal at a fancy, French-inflected restaurant. The USDA reports that the average American consumes only a third of a pound of duck per year.
The DuckMobile is out to change that.
For the last three years, this 24-foot mobile kitchen has been making the rounds at food, wine and beer festivals, championing the virtues of duck.
“We are 100% a tool of awareness,” says spokesperson Ryan Walker.
The goal is to educate people about family-owned Maple Leaf Farms, the largest producer of duckling in North America, and its products.
From April to October, the DuckMobile sets out from its Milford, IN, headquarters and canvasses Midwestern cities such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, occasionally venturing as far as Florida. Delectable duck bites are passed through the kitchen window to tempt the unconverted. Offering free samples of familiar foods with a slight twist, like duck sliders or meatballs, is an approachable way to give people a positive first experience.
“It’s not a greasy burger, or duck that your uncle shot and you’re picking buckshot out of your teeth,” says Walker.
The response has been overwhelmingly favorable, he says. “I can’t believe this is duck!” is a common exclamation. An enthusiastic taster outside of Chicago proclaimed the meatballs “better than my Italian grandmother’s!”
Along with savory tidbits, DuckMobile employees dispense tips and cooking techniques and answer questions. They recommend local restaurants and grocery stores stocked with their products.
No duck is sold at the DuckMobile. There are coupons and promotions, including a recent one encouraging on-the-spot social media photos of duck bacon mustaches using the hashtag #duckBAEcon for a chance to win five pounds of duck bacon.
Younger people are a prime market for duck, as they are generally not novelty-averse, but with channels like the Food Network and growing awareness, Walker says, “more people are willing to step outside of what’s normal for them to eat.”
There are a lot of misconceptions, according to Walker: “People think duck is fatty, duck is greasy. Wild birds, yes. But our farm-raised ducks eat an all-natural diet from local farmers, so the meat is rich but not fatty or gamey.”
Duck meat is not entirely deserving of its decadent reputation. High in protein, iron and minerals, a skinless duck breast has fewer calories and less fat than a skinless chicken breast. In addition, duck fat has a nutritional composition similar to olive oil and is often cited in the cluster of healthy conditions known as the “French paradox.”
Maple Leaf Farms raises White Pekin ducks for its line of products, which includes duck breast, ground duck, duck bacon, whole raw or roasted duck and confit legs. Their website includes a bevy of creative duck recipes and a search tool for finding local outlets for their duck meat. While on the road, the DuckMobile often stops at parking lots of partner grocery stores.