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How Ireland created the best duck in the world

Six was the magic number for Ireland to create the world’s best duck.

It was 60 years ago when a husband and wife set up a farm in a small corner of Ireland with the intention of farming ducks. From a flock of six, they created Silver Hill Duck, a breed so highly prized today it has received all sorts of glorious acclaim: the wagyu of ducks, the mother of all ducks, or simply, the best duck in the world.

But it took more than skill to create Silver Hill Duck. Much of it is down to Ireland’s pristine surroundings, as well as farmers with generations of experience. Together, they empower the country to not only produce great duck, but also premium beef and seafood.

Ireland’s farmlands (Image credit: Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board)

How Ireland created the best duck in the world

Silver Hill Farm was founded in 1962 by Ronnie and Lyla Steele in Emyvale, a village in the northeast tip of Ireland. Starting with six high quality ducks, they experimented with creating unique breeds until they settled on a hybrid of the Peking and Aylesbury ducks.

Characterised by their short legs and plump chest, Silver Hill ducks are raised on a wholesome diet of wheat, maize, and soya. They drink natural spring water from wells dug on-site, and are harvested at around 43 days old when their meat is still supple.

Silver Hill Ducks (Image credit: Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board)

This care gives Silver Hill Duck a high fat content, which is perfect for roasting. As it cooks, the fat protects the meat from drying out, resulting in a tender and flavourful meal. The meat also lacks the gamey flavour that a lot of diners associate with duck, and its porous skin crisps up beautifully.

Today, Silver Hill Duck is sought after by leading chefs and high-end restaurants in Singapore. London Fat Duck has built their reputation on it. Tung Lok Peking Duck was the first restaurant in town to cook with Silver Hill Duck. It is also served at Min Jiang, as well as The St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Bavette d’ Aloyau Steak (Image credit: Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board)

The best of Irish beef

Duck is not the only livestock to benefit from Ireland’s green pastures. The country’s mild climate, plentiful rainfall, and rich soils lead to lush grasslands, which enables it to develop a long-standing heritage in beef farming.

Irish cattle enjoy a good life. They are grass fed, which produces a fuller, meatier beef with evenly distributed fat and marbling, packed with high levels of vitamins and nutrients like iron and omega-3 fatty acids. The farmers use shepherd dogs to drive cattle, which is less stressful for the cows compared to machines or narrow gates.

These farmers also have husbandry in their blood. Many of them have been in the trade for years, with farming knowledge passed down from generation to generation. Traditional methods are combined with the latest technologies, producing exceptional beef that is sustainable, flavourful, and nutritious.

Irish Brown Crab with Sour Cream and Sorrel at CURE (Image credit: Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board)

Bountiful Irish seafood

Ireland is surrounded by the cold clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This presents the ideal conditions for a wide range of aquatic species, and makes it one of the richest fishing grounds in the European Union.

The waters offer a bounty of quality seafood including whelk, crab, oyster, lobster, scallop, and langoustine. Fishing is conducted according to the EU’s high food safety standards and Ireland’s food sustainability programme Origin Green, which provide assurances around the traceability, provenance, and environmental management of the country’s wild fish stocks.

Ireland is also a leader in sustainable aquatic agriculture. It is one of the world’s top producers of organic Atlantic salmon. Organic mussels, which are extensively grown and harvested along the country’s wild Atlantic coastline, are also well-loved around the world.

For additional information, check out Silver Hill Duck or Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board on Instagram, as well as local importer Irish Duck Company’s website and Instagram page for recipes. Alternatively, discover more with the hashtags #BordBia, #IrishDuck, #WagyuOfDucks.

(Hero and feature images credit: Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board)

How Ireland created the best duck in the world

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