What Are Liberty Ducks And Why Are They All Over Michelin Menus?

From the French Laundry and Chez Panisse to Kato and n/naka, Michelin-starred restaurants all over California (and beyond) have one thing in common across their many unique menus: a very specific, very special type of duck.

They're called Liberty Ducks, and they're a favorite among food retailers and restaurants (Michelin-rated or not) for their superior quality and flavor. So what are Liberty Ducks, exactly? Where do they come from, and what makes them so much better than other commercially farmed ducks?

Liberty Ducks basically didn't exist until 1992 when duck farmer Jim Reichardt decided to find a way to raise the meatier, larger, tastier ducks that so many chefs and restaurants in California sought. He founded Sonoma County Poultry where he and his family began raising new ducks in a new way — delivering healthier, better birds that chefs and patrons throughout the West Coast love to cook and eat every part of.

What makes Liberty Ducks different

Liberty Ducks are essentially a type of Pekin Duck (which are the white, long-necked domestic breed of ducks you'd easily recognize). But what makes them different is the way that they're raised and farmed. Developed in Denmark, Liberty Ducks were created to follow suit with the slow food movement, allowing for a longer, more peaceful rearing process.

Liberty Ducks are fed with local grain, they're antibiotic and hormone-free, and they're given the space and freedom to roam and run. The natural climate of Sonoma County allows for this type of farming year-round, without the use of heat or air conditioning in cramped factories. This ultimately helps to produce a healthier bird with more texture.

What makes Liberty Ducks more flavorful than other ducks is the time spent raising them. Most commercially raised ducks are sold at around six weeks of age, but Liberty Ducks are reared until they're nine weeks old, resulting in a larger and meatier bird. And the farm lets the eggs hatch for an extra two weeks, which allows a richer flavor to develop.

Why Michelin restaurants swear by Liberty Ducks

There's a reason why these ducks are all over Michelin menus in California and the surrounding states where Sonoma County Poultry delivers. Chefs swear by Liberty Ducks because they simply taste better, allowing their dishes to be the best they can be.

Kato, a Michelin-star Taiwanese restaurant in Los Angeles, uses Liberty Ducks year-round as a main course on their tasting menu. Chef and owner Jonathan Yao tells Michelin Guide, "We like their ducks for their rich flavor, ratio of fat to meat, and size for our aging methods."

What kinds of Michelin-star duck recipes feature Liberty Ducks? The French Laundry, the famous three-star restaurant in Napa Valley, makes a Liberty Farms Pekin Duck "Pressé" that's served with figs, pistachio purée, arugula, and aged balsamic jus. Meanwhile, two-star Mélisse in Santa Monica serves a Liberty Farms Duck "Rouennaise" with porcini mushroom, sunchoke, and milk bread.