Among the domestic ducks raised by French farmers several hundred years ago were some resembling large Mallards. Around 1800, these ducks reached England, where they were variously called "Rhone," for an area in southwest France, "Rohan," for a Catholic Cardinal, "Roan," a mixture of colors, and finally "Rouen," for a town in north central France" (Holderread, 2001). Once the Rouen arrived in England, breeders began to redesign the bird through selective breeding. They doubled its size, transformed its sleek body into a thickset boat shape, and improved its colors. In 1850, Mr. D. W. Lincoln of Worcester brought Rouens to the United States and the breed soon became popular as a colorful, general-purpose farm duck. "The Rouen was first included in the American Poultry Association (APA) Standard of Perfection in 1874 and has since been considered by breeders to be the ultimate exhibition duck for its beauty, size, and challenge involved in breeding truly good show specimens." (Holderread, 2001)
Rouens come in two distinct shapes. The Standard Rouen is a massive duck that reaches weights between 9 and 10 pounds. It has a horizontal carriage, a large, blocky body with a deep, level keel, and its back arches from shoulders to tail. The head is round with a medium size bill that is concave along the top line. The production Rouen averages two pounds less than the Standard Rouen and has a trimmer body and more upright carriage. It is not considered endangered. The Rouen drake has a dark yellow bill, bright orange shanks and feet, and black eyes. His head, upper neck, and tail are dark green, lower neck and breast are dark brown, upper back is dark gray, and lower body light gray. A white band encircles his neck and a diagonal white/blue/white line crosses his wings. A Rouen duck has a brown bill, dark orange shanks and feet, and black eyes. A female also has the diagonal color pattern on her wings, but the rest of her plumage is brown with black texturing.
Holderread, Dave. Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications, Inc., 2001.
Since domestication some 4000 years ago, ducks have been used for their meat, eggs and feathers. Today, ducks are still very popular and remain in strong demand.
Domestic ducks have had a reputation of being fat and although carcass fat has been reduced considerably through selection, it is still substantially more than in broiler chickens with a poorer feed efficiency of about 2.5: 1. Ducks are more difficult to process and the carcass is waxed to remove pin feathers; consequently it is labour intensive and the processing plant is less automated than that for broilers.
Preferences with regard to breed of duck and method of preparation vary widely. Braised or barbecued duck appears as a popular dish in fine restaurants. Duck meat can be described as dark, tender meat with a mild flavour. The breast muscle is lighter and has a milder flavour than the leg muscles. More recently, duck cuts such as the breast and legs destined for home preparation have become available in supermarkets.