Is Duck Red Meat? (3 Surprising Truths You Need to Know)

Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: June 21, 2024

Duck belongs to poultry, which traditionally has a white color. However, duck, especially duck breast, is a dark color and resembles more the color of steak than chicken.

I admit I didn’t know how to classify duck meat, even though I’ve been a fan of an all-meta diet for over five years.

I talked with my butcher and spent countless hours researching different scientific sources to know different definitions of duck meat.

It isn’t always easy to find duck meat at the local supermarket. This is why we tried and tested the best game delivery services and compared their practices, prices, and quality.

Here’s what I found about duck meat.

Quick Summary

  • Duck is classified as both red and white meat, depending on the definition.
  • Duck fat can be used for cooking.
  • Duck has many similarities to beef.

Is Duck Red Meat?

According to a culinary definition, duck is red meat because it has a dark color. But, according to scientific classification, duck isn’t red meat because it comes from birds.

Here’s an in-depth explanation of both.

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Scientific Definition of Duck Meat

A raw whole duck on top of parchment paper

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), duck meat is white meat [1].

USDA classifies duck meat as white meat, like other poultry, such as chicken and turkey. However, they explain that even though duck is white meat, its meat has a darker color. This is because of myoglobin.

Ducks can fly, which engages their breast muscles, and more oxygen is delivered to the muscles by red blood cells. This oxygen is stored in the muscles by myoglobin.

This is also why skinless duck breast is darker than duck thighs and legs.

Overall, duck muscle meat can be dark but is not scientifically classified as red meat.

“Duck and goose are poultry and considered "white" meat. Because they are birds of flight, however, the breast meat is darker than chicken and turkey breast. This is because more oxygen is needed by muscles doing work, and the oxygen is delivered to those muscles by the red cells in the blood.”
- United States Department of Agriculture

Culinary Classification of Duck Meat

A top view of raw duck red meat

Culinary classification is based on the color of the meat during cooking and serving, so according to culinary classification, meat that stays dark when cooked is red. If we follow this definition, duck belongs to red meat.

Duck is also seen as red meat because it has more fat than poultry, including saturated fat.

Duck liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth and is especially rich in vitamin A and vitamin B12.

Duck is often paired with red wines, like the most common red meats, while other poultry is usually paired with white wines.

It’s usually prepared medium rare and served slightly pink, just like steak and lamb.

However, USDA recommends cooking duck to the same internal temperature as chicken — to 165 degrees [2].

Similarities Between Duck and Red Meat

A close up shot of pan-seared duck breast

Even though duck is classified as white meat by the USDA, there are several significant similarities between duck meat and red meat.

1. Duck Meat Has a Steak Consistency

Duck meat has the same consistency as a steak, especially a breast cut.

This is because the duck has a long history of flight (longer than chickens). So, this part of the duck is especially strong and gets more oxygen.

The same is somewhat true for the legs as well because they are waterfowl.

This means many recipes require you to cook duck meat with the same consistency as steak. You should gradually increase the temperature so it’s thoroughly cooked.

2. High-Fat Content

Ducks are naturally rich in fat because the fat in muscles keeps them warm while swimming.

You can find a lot of duck fat on the skin (much more compared to chicken and turkey meat).

However, this fat is easy to render off while cooking and isn’t quite as marbled as beef fat.

3. High Cholesterol Level

Another reason some people consider duck red meat is that it has a similar cholesterol level as red meat.

If you want a healthy diet or are at risk of high cholesterol, it’s best that you avoid this meat, like duck.

However, it’s a good substitution for red meat as it still ranks slightly below beef in terms of cholesterol and fat content.


Is Duck Healthy Red Meat?

Duck is healthy red meat. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, iron, and protein like beef but has fewer calories, like other game birds.

Why is Duck Meat not Popular?

Duck meat isn’t popular because it remains dark after being cooked. Also, a duck has an earthy, slightly gamey flavor, which not everybody likes.

Why is Duck Better than a Turkey?

Duck is better than a turkey because you can eat it alone or garnish it as you want. It’s also more versatile and can be used in salads, soups, and casseroles.


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About the author

Arianna Foster
Nutritionist/Editorial Director
Arianna Foster is the editorial director and senior reviewer at Carnivore Style. She loves sharing her passion for nutrition, diverse cooking techniques, and the many health benefits of a meat diet with readers.
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