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Maple Leaf Farms

Maple Leaf Farms is the largest producer of ducklings in North America. They sell White Pekin duckling to restaurants, caterers and grocery stores. Maple Leaf processes 14 million ducks per year and has facilities in California, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio (1).

According to Maple Leaf, they control every aspect of production. It justifies keeping ducks in sheds, preventing them from being outside in a natural habitat, by saying it is better for the ducks! In fact, they unequivocally state that the ducks are not 'free-range'(2).

Viva! has investigated a number of their farms in different states around the U.S. In all of the locations visited, dim lights were on the birds constantly - in the middle of the night and during the day. None had access to water for swimming or even to immerse their heads.

One farm, (263 San Fidel Ave., La Puente, CA) had two rows of sheds that went on for a half of a mile. There were ducks inside these sheds as far as the eye could see. There were nesting boxes and a few eggs scattered around. It had just rained so the small outside area which some ducks could go into was muddy and smelled overpoweringly of manure. The farm was right off the highway and yet the noises were drowned out by the incessant quacking. The ducks were filthy and many had crusty eyes.

The next farm (1660 W. Agua Mansa Rd., Colton, CA) had younger ducks; these were still yellow. The birds were fed through feeders; and given water via a few bell drinkers but mostly small nipple drinkers. The baby ducks would crowd along the nipple drinkers trying to get water and some were trying to get it to splash on their bills. One little yellow duck sat with a mix of mud and manure covering his face.

At their headquarters (9166 N. 200 E, Milford, IN) one set of their breeder ducks were kept in sheds that were falling apart with holes in the ceiling and walls. The air was full of feathers and other particles. There was a dead duck on the floor who was being walked on by her fellow ducks. They only had nipple drinkers for water. Around the rest of the complex there were massive sheds, empty. Some had mesh flooring out.

At another location (7286 Sandusky County Road 33, Wayne, OH) there was a dead duck near the entrance. There was also a duck who had fallen in the mesh flooring next to the water who had gotten his wings stuck. The duck was on his back squawking, struggling to get up. A Viva! investigator had to use considerable force to remove his wings from the gaps in the floor. There were also a number of ducks in the sheds who struggled to stand, but were unable to.

Grimaud Farms

Started in 1984 by the Grimaud family from France, they specialize in the Muscovy duck. In 1987 the company made under a million dollars in annual revenues. They make over 6 million dollars a year now. The company controls a 120-acre hatchery and breeding facility, as well as 5 duck and 2 rabbit ranches. They have recently taken over the sales and distribution of Sonoma Foie Gras (3).

As stated earlier, Grimaud Farms of California imports their breeding stock from France (4). Here the breeding ducks are individually caged, unable to exercise or fulfil the most basic instincts and mated by artificial insemination three times every two weeks (5). An ad put out by Grimaud clearly shows de-billed ducks (6).

Metzer Farms

Metzer Farms (located in Gonzales, CA) has been around since 1978 and operates breeding and shipping services (7). They sell 10,000 to 20,000 edible eggs a week and have 'developed' the Golden 300 Hybrid. This hybrid was created by crossing the attributes of different duck breeds. The Golden Hybrid can lay 230 eggs in 40 weeks in comparison to the typical egg-laying duck, the Khaki Campbell, who will lay 195 (8) (see part two for amount of eggs laid in 52 weeks).

All of Metzer's shipments go through the U.S. Postal Service. No food or water is provided in the box. According to Metzer, they absorb their yolk immediately before hatching and this provides them the moisture and energy they need for up to 60 hours (9).

However, a study on chicks left without water for up to 48 hours reported high mortality. Scientists from Bristol University's Dept. of Meat and Animal Science concluded: "This work has demonstrated that large losses in weight may occur while chicks are in transit for periods of time which are likely to be common in commercial practice." Their research indicated that some chicks suffer serious weight loss and are prone to dying immediately after placement in sheds (10).

One reason for a high percentage of 'day-olds' dying on arrival was explained in an article published in World Poultry which stressed: "The condition of the chicks on arrival can be ascertained before placing as severely dehydrated chicks will often seek water and rush to the drinkers, leading to drowning" (11).

There is no reason to believe that conditions are any better for ducklings than they are for chicks and there has to be great concern that serious problems exist with their transport. The reason for there being so little research into duck welfare is that the market is small compared to massive broiler chicken sales.

Culver Duck

For over five generations, Culver Duck (12215 C R 10, Middlebury, IN) has been breeding, hatching, raising and slaughtering Pekin ducks (12). Culver Duck has many sheds housing hundreds of ducks visible from a city street. They drank from nipple drinkers, had no other access to water and some of the ducks were unable to stand.

Some of the major supermarkets stocking duck meat:

Cub Foods
Fred Meyer
Giant Food Stores
Hy-Vee Foods
Shaw's Supermarkets
Stop & Shop
Super Valu
Trader Joe's
Wal-Mart SuperStores
Whole Foods
Winn Dixie

References (part six)

1. www.mapleleaffarms.com, About Maple Leaf Farms
2. www.mapleleaffarms.com, Frequently Asked Questions.
3. www.grimaud.com, The Story.
4. Ibid.
5. International Hatchery Practice, Vol. 8, No. 7, 1994.
6. World Poultry Elsevier vol 15 No 12 1999
7. www.metzerfarms.com Duck and Goose Hatchery, About Metzer Farms.
8. www.metzerfarms.com. Duck and Goose Hatchery, Metzer Farms Golden 300 Hybrid.
9. www.metzerfarms.com. Duck and Goose Hatchery, Shipping Our Ducks and Geese.
10. Responses of Newly Hatched Chicks to Inanition. Warris. P.D. et al. Veterinary Record, 18 January 1992.
11. Losses due to Dehydrated Broiler Chicks, Qureshi, Dr. A A. World Poultry, Vol. 7, No. 4, 1991.
12. www.culverduck.com. About Culver Duck.


Report Contents

Part One

Size of the U.S. industry
Types of ducks
Intensive confinement
Bill trimming (debeaking)
Viva! ends duck debeaking in Britain
Wire flooring
Slatted floors
Food and drink
Water denied
Behavioral patterns
References (part one)


Breeding ducks

Amount of living space
Sexual patterns
Forced molting
Duck eggs
Parent stock
References (part two)


The Government and ducks

The legal position
References (part three)



Electrical stunning
Stunner failings
Boiled alive
References (part four)


Disease patterns

Medicated feeds
Global diseases
Diseases of intensification
References (part five)


Duck suppliers

Maple Leaf Farms
Grimaud Farms
Metzer Farms
Culver Duck
Some of the Major supermarkets stocking duck meat
References (part six)


Global resources

References (part seven)