Do you remember the first time you ate a sumer tomato, heavy with sun, fresh off the vine? Or the first time someone bought you a pristine, frosty $30 flute of Veuve de Cliquot when all you'd been drinking up 'til then was swill? The first time you saw the sun setting over the Caribbean? What about that massage where they finally got at that spot?
My point is that eating a duck egg is as revelatory as any important first, those firsts where you say to yourself: "I just don't want to go back to the old way of living!" Where you almost want to cry because of all you've been missing.
A duck egg is to a chicken egg what 1,000 thread count sheets are to Scooby Doo bedding that doubles as cheap apartment curtains. They're pure luxury, smooth as silk, creamy as heavy whip. "When I have people try one scrambled for the first time they always ask if there's cream in them," says Khaiti French, farmer of Clayton, Wisconsin-based L.T.D. Farm who, along with her partner Andrew French, is singlehandedly creating a market for duck eggs locally.
Eight years ago when she started her farm, after seven years of veganism, she got a few chickens and a few ducks. "And after tasting the duck egg, my life changed. I said what is this?! I didn't even want the chicken eggs any more. So that's what I devoted my life to. To the product I adore."
The Frenches have devoted their lives to raising duck eggs. Because ducks are a nontraditional farm animal, and therefore difficult to raise, they have developed their own specialized methodology for getting the most out of the ducks and the eggs, and in turn, the ducks give plenty back to the land. They're raised on pasture, on bugs and greens and night crawlers to name a few items of their varied diet, and as they eat, they leave a lot behind, in the form of poop. "They fertilize the land so richly that it comes back within a couple of days." So, no icky, squicky, conventional farming here that depletes the soil and produces dubious food. "I've followed Temple Grandin methods of observing the animals' psychology and that way you can really work with them by gently guiding them."
Duck eggs are twice the size of chicken eggs by volume, have twice the yolk size and contain twice the level of protein and mono-unsaturated fat as chicken eggs. You remember Doublemint. They're twice as nice and twice as fun. "And pastured protein is the healthiest protein you can put into your body," says Khaiti.
The Frenches do not cull (that's a nice way to say kill) their animals when they become less productive, as conventional farms do. Remember that Khaiti was a vegan before she started her farm, and only decided to begin eating animal protein again if she could raise it ethically herself. She still has one of her original ducks that she began with eight years ago. Ducks generally become less productive after about four years, but she factors that diminished egg production into her overall business plan. "If I was a more cutthroat business person I would cull them when they stop producing at a certain level, but this is a very important ethical issue for some people who will only eat eggs from a no-kill farm. I have decided to be a no-kill farm." So you can eat these eggs with a completely clear conscience. Guilt tastes like shit, people.
Six duck eggs cost barely more than a dozen organic chicken eggs, about $4.99 in most of the local coops. And remember, they're twice the size of those other, inferior eggs.
L.T.D. stands for Living The Dream. And the Frenches can say this completely unironically, unlike your bored, hipster barista with the elbow piercing. When Khaiti lets the ducks out to pasture each morning, "It sounds like a thousand people laughing. It's the most hilarious, awesomely amazing sound in the world!"
L.T.D. duck eggs are available at almost any local Twin Cities co-op, but if you are unsure call ahead to check. They are in season now through the December. Khaiti says they take on the most magnificent, mushroomy flavor in the fall from all of the turning leaves and hay the ducks get to eat, but now they taste green and fresh and bright. Get them while the getting is good.