Muscovy Duck is unlike any "duck" you have ever eaten

David Beemer, of OmniUnum Farm, decided he wanted more control over his food supply.  In lieu of purchasing Michigan peat and compost, Beemer decided to raise poultry for their manure, a nutrient-rich and accessible fertilizer. Beemer choose Muscovy ducks as his poultry of choice after being served it at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Lyons, France. “I asked for something that I could not get in this country… He brought me Magret - and I ate it. They asked me what I thought it was and I said, “that was probably the best veal I have ever had.” And they said, “This is Muscovy Duck.””

Beemer has partnered with Antoinette Benjamin, of Food for all Seasons Catering, because “she is the only one I have found who knows how to cook them. I am a good example - I overcooked the last one. I just didn’t have time to follow the directions she gave me.”

Endemic in an animal designed to perch in trees not wade in water, Muscovy ducks have about 18% fat as opposed to Pekin duck with 29% fat. This fat difference and the less significant oil gland in the Muscovy alters the flavor of what our taste buds recognize as "duck" and can complicate cooking Muscovy for those not familiar with the meat.

According to Benjamin, trained by renowned French chef Madeleine Kamman, “cooking Magret is a matter of technique. So if you look up cooking duck breast, it is different with the Muscovy. Just because of the fat.”

Recently, I was able to try Muscovy courtesy of ici Urban Bistro in Washington DC. The consensus at the table was that the meat was “absolutely fabulous” and unlike anything anyone had eaten before - a bold, unique flavor arising from a texture that crumbled like veal, unlike poultry’s striation.

Borden - Muscovy duck breast

I was also able to see firsthand the difficulty of cooking Muscovy. When the breast slices arrived to the table they were medium rare and succulent. By the time we finished eating the meat (20 minutes later?) the slices were cooked through from the residual heat. The flavor was still there but the texture was dry and unappealing.

Beemer's partnership with Antoinette Benjamin is an opportunity for those of us curious to taste more of this unique fowl. As Benjamin says, “Magret is the BEST for the Muschovy - I mean it is JUST AMAZING. I mean as I said, I don’t think that people - most people wouldn’t know, like David, what they are eating. They wouldn’t know it was duck breast.”

Beemer and Benjamin are planning to hold a Muscovy dinner in the Spring. If you are interested, contact David Beemer at OmniUnum Farm or Antoinette Benjamin at Food for all Seasons.

(Link to article on annarbor.com coming soon...)

OmniUnum Farm: "heaven on earth" for Muscovy Ducks

Borden - Beemer in spa

You never know who you are going to sit next to at FridayMorning@Selmas, or in my case, who will sit on you.

I sat next to David Beemer, of OmniUnum Farm, and Antoinette Benjamin, of Food for all Seasons Catering. As they spoke to me about the world of the Muscovy duck - two day old Muscovy ducklings nestled their warm, downy, wiggling bodies into my neck, tucking themselves in under my hair, as if I were their mama.

After such a bucolic introduction, I had no choice but to visit the farm.

A former investment banker and hospital administrator, David Beemer changed the trajectory of his life after experiencing a health scare while working in Namibia. He left his desk and began raising his own food. “When I first got out here…I put like, 800 pounds of cow manure and Michigan Peat in my asparagus bed. And I just said - this is ridiculous. It can’t be this tough - and that is how I first got into poultry.” Beemer attributes his thriving vegetables to regularly fertilizing his garden with duck pond water and soiled straw from his fowl charges.

Beemer began his Muscovy flock with 18 ducklings from Quaker Hill Farm three years ago. The ducks have a varied diet: including vegetables from the gardens they fertilize, organic crumble, kelp tea, comfrey, worms, fruit, algae, and insects they forage themselves. Beemer has constructed an “annex, an aviary, a spa, and a playground” for the birds out of recycled items from Craig’s List and diverted a small drainage stream and natural spring in order to ensure a constant supply of fresh water to the flock. His 12,500 foot enclosed area is tall enough for the birds to fly.

“My objective was to create an environment for animals to have Heaven on Earth.”

As Beemer explains, Muscovy ducks “are perching birds not wading birds. All ducks have an oil gland, that is what helps their buoyancy and everything in water - but because the Muscovy is a perching bird bred to live in trees and out of the water and bred by farmers … to handle pest control in their crops. [They eat all the insects.] In the summer time, you won’t even see any mosquitoes out here… they are like pythons with legs!”

Beemer continues to describe the birds, exuding delight and joy. “A lot of people think of them as mute, but they are not mute - they whisper and when they are happy they trill.”

Beemer’s all white birds (for ease of dressing) “exceed standard. If you go anywhere and read about the standard for the breed…they exceed standard almost to the point that it is absurd. They look for ducks that are 7 pounds and for drakes that are 9 pounds. Mine are 9 pounds dressed out and they can be as much as 15 pounds.” He is particularly proud of 5 ducks born in early June. “I swear to you that I will put those five ducks against any Muscovy Ducks in the world. They are the finest free-range, all organic Muscovy Ducks anywhere.”

Borden - Beemer's playground

Beemer constructed a "playground" for his flock out of recycled items, in line with the principles of Permaculture.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.