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Other forms of poultry are regarded as undercooked at the slightest sign of pink juices and yet it is common practice to cook duck so that it's medium rare. Is the risk of food poisoning significantly lower with duck meat than other birds?

On the other hand, if we could be sure that a piece of chicken could was salmonella-free, would its texture and flavor be improved by not overcooking it? I expect the sight of pink would put most people off but if one could overcome that, could it actually taste better?

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  • 1
    I personally dislike the texture of under-cooked chicken and I don't think it tastes better.
    – Preston
    Jun 11, 2014 at 7:03
  • As more folks use low temperature/sous vide cooking, it is important to understand that color and texture are not good indicators of a protein's safety. You may not like the texture, but one can easily produce a safe to eat piece of chicken, for example, that looks "pink." Safety is a product of time and temperature.
    – moscafj
    Feb 21, 2016 at 13:31

10 Answers 10

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Rare duck meat is safe to eat because it does NOT contain the same risk of Salmonella as does chicken meat.

Primarily because ducks, as mentioned above, have not traditionally been raised in the same squalid conditions as "factory raised" chickens - salmonella is a disease that is primarily transmitted through dirt/dirty unclean conditions.

Now, on the other hand, as more and more ducks are being raised in industrial conditions, they are also becoming more likely to contain strains of Salmonella.

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    How can you be sure of the conditions of manufacture for any meat you purchase? Is it worth the risk?
    – zanlok
    Dec 14, 2010 at 16:48
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    "Bucolic - Adjective - Of or relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life" -- is that the word you intended to use?
    – slim
    May 1, 2013 at 10:17
  • Edited the answer. Cooking my duck breast a bit longer this evening :)
    – Mena
    Jun 10, 2014 at 20:35
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    This is just plain wrong. Commercial ducks are farm raised, and have the same risks as chickens etc. This risk is different from country to country, and from farm to farm. Wild ducks can carry the same risk too. Having said that, in many countries, the risk for chicken or duck are well overstated
    – TFD
    Jul 11, 2015 at 23:43
  • According to more recent evidence, this answer is off. The disease one worries about in ducks is campylobacter, and it is fairly common in ducks, and it seems to not matter if the duck is raised in the country-side on a small bucolic farm. See telegraph.co.uk/news/shopping-and-consumer-news/11742687/…, thedharmakitchen.com/carrie-havranek/…, and vice.com/en/article/xy7mpw/…. Oct 29, 2021 at 17:15
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If you thought the broiler chicken industry "squalid" then you are in for one big shock when you find out about the commercial duck industry! Sorry but ponds with ducks waddling around is only for the very few free-range ones. huge dark sheds with only water from nipple-drinkers, eye infections and misery is the norm for commercially reared ducks, so less likely to get salmonella? I really don't think so.

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    This is very interesting if true; can you point to a source or are you speaking from experience (and if so, what experience exactly)?
    – Aaronut
    Dec 8, 2010 at 15:50
  • Can't say I trust rare anything, as a rule. A credible source would be nice, though.
    – zanlok
    Dec 14, 2010 at 16:46
  • bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19617232 "Duck rearing conditions 'getting worse' says RSPCA"
    – slim
    May 1, 2013 at 10:19
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Yes, rare duck breast is safe and the risk is significantly lower, not least because ducks are not factory farmed in the same squalid and obscene conditions that chickens are.

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They don't give reasons, but USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) do say that duck meat can remain pink, so long as it has reached an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C) throughout. The same temperature requirement is given for chicken, but with the added note that for cosmetic reasons, people usually cook chicken more.

They also indicate that chicken is susceptible to a wider range of harmful bacteria than duck.

Duck and Goose Info

Chicken Info

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The reason for the salmonella warnings is because of the processing facilities not the chicken houses where the birds are raised. All animals probably have some salmonella as part of their intestinal flora . When you slaughter millions of birds in a given area over scores of years the bacterial portion of the local bio mass increases for obvious reasons . Trying to disinfect the equipment the microbe become resistant to normal solutions. What you end up with is a lot of highly evolved pathogens which are hard to kill. A little carelessness during processing and you have an infected chicken carcass. If you cook it thoroughly no problem and handle it carefully.

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In the UK it's now Campylobacter not salmonella that's the main problem in Poultry.

Approx 50% of ducks are infected and 60% of chickens.

The pathogen is low dose and is not just found on the surface so searing won't get rid of it.

Cooking to around +75oC should effectively kill it but the duck won't be pink at that temperature.

It's often considered to be less of a risk than chicken (which most people serve cooked) but in reality that's because less duck is consumed than chicken overall.

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  • Steve, interesting answer - you wouldn't have a few sources to back up your numbers? That would even improve your answer. Welcome to Seasoned Advice, btw., have you taken the tour and visited our help center yet? That is an excellent place to get started and to get a good idea how this and the other sites of the Stack Exchange network work.
    – Stephie
    Feb 21, 2016 at 15:05
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from the Vermont dept of Health: Salmonella organisms have been found in the stools of sick and apparently healthy people and animals. Most domestic animals, including ducks, cattle, swine, dogs, cats, pet turtles and chicks have been found to carry and transmit salmonella. The bacteria also has been found in a variety of wild animals. Thorough hand washing after contact with animals is recommended to prevent salmonella transmission. Contaminated water is also a possible source of salmonella infection.

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All birds (and reptiles, for that matter) naturally have salmonella in their digestive tract. I'm assuming that the amount must be significantly lower in ducks, or possibly the fact that ducks are "waterproof" may be part of it. If the salmonella-containing dung cannot cling to them as well as it can to chickens maybe less is transferred to the meat after processing?

Just my hypothesis, anyway.

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Salmonella is NOT normally found in poultry that is truly free ranged (pastured). Poultry that eat bugs and other "animals" found while foraging do not usually carry Salmonella in their intestinal tract. There appears to be much "myth" presented on this thread regarding Salmonella. The fact is that Salmonella in chickens and eggs was extremely rare before the industrialization of the poultry industry. I would suggest that anyone that travelled out on Long Island NY back in the 1950's know about the smell from the gigantic duck farms that used to be there. Those ducks may very well have carried Salmonella. Raising poultry using proper sanitation and allowing the birds to forage will remove any endemic Salmonella. The problem is so bad in the chicken industry that newly hatched chicks are already infected but two months off pasturing will alleviate the infection. I have been raising organic free range poultry for about 60 years and wouldn't think twice about eating raw eggs from my chickens or ducks. Given clean housing, water, and feed there hardly any threat from Salmonella.

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    You are making very strong claims for the rarity of salmonella, and for the influence of raising methods on it. Do you have any numbers to prove it? Also, it doesn't matter what the (perceived or real) threat is from your ducks - the average reader of this post has to eat whatever is available on the market.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:29
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Salmonella is a bacteria only found in the intestinal tract of chickens. No other birds contain this bacteria; if they do it is from cross contamination with chicken feces. Also, duck is not poultry, it is fowl. Fowl flies, poultry does not.

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    Sorry sean. That bit about it only being found in the intestinal tract of chickens is just flatly untrue. It can also be found in humans, birds other than chickens, reptiles, and food/water that have come into contact with the above. Ducks, geese, and turkey can certainly carry it as well.
    – Preston
    Jul 12, 2015 at 0:01

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