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How Come "Rare" Duck is Okay, but "Rare" Chicken is Deadly?

While I've enjoyed well-roasted duck for my entire life, I've never eaten or served it "rare", which has been the rage for many years now. Just can't wrap my brain around the fact that it's okay to eat undercooked duck, but undercooked chicken (& turkey) can kill you.

They're all poultry, so what makes one a supposed duck-lover's delight, while the other one can earn you a trip to the hospital (or into an intimate relationship with your bathroom!).

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  1. I'm no expert, but I understand that it's because chickens are factory-farmed in conditions that are seriously conducive to fostering the growth of microscopic baddies, whereas since ducks are comparatively so much less popular, the conditions in which they are raised (for non-wild ducks) aren't as bad. If ducks start becoming more popular, I'm sure that will change.

    5 Replies
    1. re: GardenFresh

      Now you see, this just isn't true. I grew up on Long Island, NY - the formerly undisputed duck capital of the nation (some folks claim "the world"). Have you ever seen a duck farm in person? Very few farming practices could be as squalid, particularly since waterfowl have droppings that are much larger, sloppier, & watery than land fowl. And if they are raised with access to swimming water, that's an automatic cesspool.

      In fact, the main reason why the "Long Island Duck" industry went by the wayside was because the runoff from the duck farms (all located along the Island's east end) was heavily polluting the waterways & shoreline. It's both thankful (for the environment) & sad (for the duck farmers) that so many severe restrictions were placed on managing the duck manure, that the majority of the farms went out of business. Currently, there are only TWO duck farms left on Long Island - nothing like the heyday.

      But I digress. My point is that if you've ever seen a commercial duck farm, you'd never suggest that the conditions aren't as bad.

      Thanks for the replies guys, but I'm thinking it's still a crap shoot, & I'll be enjoying my duck well-done as usual. :)

        1. re: Bacardi1

          Bacardi1, what is forgotten nowadays is that the Long Island duck industry was a government-sponsored, returning-G.I.-friendly plan to establish a duck EGG industry, with duck meat as an offshoot. It was quickly discovered, however, that every duck egg they tested for salmonella came up positive, and heavily so. Long Island therefore became a center of ducks-as-food farming.

        2. Both chicken and duck (and goose) are recommended to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F. to kill salmonella and other pathogens. (Source: USDA FSIS)

          1 Reply
          1. re: GH1618

            This. Chickens are mostly breast these days and have a larger ratio of fast-cooking lean white meat compared to duck's denser meat. It takes longer to cook a duck than a chicken, but both need to reach 165 degrees for food safety purposes.

          2. I suppose undercooked fowl can kill some people, but it can't kill me given I'm a healthy adult.

            3 Replies
            1. re: redfish62

              Perhaps, but a pathogen found in poultry which is a common cause of food poisoning, Campylobacter jejeuni, will cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome in some of the people it infects. Your chance of getting it is small, but the consequences can be devastating, and your susceptibility to it does not depend on your overall health.

              1. re: redfish62

                Actually it could kill you--though perhaps the likelihood is lower than for a person with a weak immune system. The e. coli outbreak recently in Germany was killing otherwise healthy people. Be careful.

                1. re: Wawsanham

                  e coli can be on pretty much anything since it is spread in feccal matter. Many outbreaks have happened with veggies ....

              2. I have always wondered this myself, but whatever the answer, I can't eat rare duck with blood oozing out. (I don't like beef in general so steak isn't an issue for me). I love duck breasts gently braised or poached, however. I've never understood the rage for rare duck breast.....

                1 Reply
                1. In theory, any rare meat can kill you. However, this chance can be dramatically minimize. In the case of duck vs chicken. It has been argued that most chicken we talk about are factory farmed chicken raised in an antibiotic situation. So the argument is that whatever these chicken may have, they are resistance to many antibiotic medication.

                  So if you do get sick from these raw chicken, then many antibiotics may no longer work for you.

                  1. I can't believe no one has mentioned the actual reason yet. Chickens are "washed" in a bath of fecal soup during processing, so one contaminated chicken infects the whole batch, and thus the odds of getting a chicken crawling with Salmonella and Campylobacter are much higher than with Ducks, which aren't processed the same way.

                    Moreover, the machines they use to eviscerate chickens are much more likely to puncture the intestines and release the microscopic baddies than the way ducks are cleaned.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: acgold7

                      ok thanks acgold7 now I am becoming a vegetarian. right now. partly for my health, mostly for the health of the workers who have to process this stuff and the animals themselves.

                      1. re: acgold7

                        Not sure if ducks are processed any differently.

                        You're right that it is not inherent in chickens to be contaminated, but they get that way in processing. In Japan I once ate at a restaurant that specialized in chicken. Every course in a traditional Japanese menu but all using chicken, including the sashimi course. Eating the chicken raw was fine because the restaurant raised and slaughtered their own chickens, taking impeccable care not to contaminate the meat with fecal matter.

                        1. re: mpad

                          Even with health issues removed,it's about taste. I've never eaten raw chicken and I've only tasted rare duck, but didn't work for me. I also don't like caviar or organs or foie gras. So it's my palate problem, perhaps.

                          1. re: Madrid

                            Raw chicken tastes about like raw fish. As with sashimi, the taste of the raw version is more subtle than the cooked version. Difficulty is more mental than because of the flavor. But also not so special that I'd go out of my way to eat raw chicken again.

                            1. re: mpad

                              Yeah, I find rare duck to be more like rare beef. But raw chicken is much more like sashimi - it's not 'meaty' at all.

                        2. re: acgold7

                          This was my understanding as well.

                        3. I do no think that the processing of the chicken fully accounts for why eating raw chicken is such a rarity, although the descriptions are sufficiently horrifying to dissuade even the adventurous Chowhound.

                          It seems to me that raw beef is consumed throughout the world in various guises, and has been for a very long time. However, even in remote communities where people are slaughtering their own animals, eating raw chicken is mostly unheard of.

                          1. Salmonella exists far more prevalently in chicken than in ducks.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: CarrieWas218

                              Agreed. They are completely different species. Different species are susceptible to different diseases, where humans may or may not be susceptible to as well.

                            2. I'm a fan of medium rare duck but much of the duck I eat is wild and shot by local hunters. My brother also raises about 25 very happy free-range ducks on the farm each year (just for family) and the cleaning process is meticulous. Delicious, that is for sure. I have never balked at having medium rare duck at good restaurants, either. Maybe I should?! I eat a lot of it.

                              1. From what I have heard, it matters where the duck comes from. I was told to always cook store bought duck to temperature (165), but that nice restaurants who serve rare duck get it from a supplier, and is a different breed/type of duck. They also only ever serve rare or medium-rare breast meat, not the thighs and legs. This breed, or style in which it was raised, can be served that way. I guess that makes sense after seeing chicken sashimi served in Japan.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tacowalker

                                  I just had two of Trader Joe's Organic Free-Range birds, dry-brined for two days and baked under buttered foil to 160º internal, then briefly browned. The juices were a pale pink, as was the meat. It was breath-takingly good, as good in its way as any other fowl I've tasted. Perhaps I am being naive here, but I trust TJ's to give me cleanly-processed chickens, at least at this level, and have every intention of expressing that trust again and again. Yum.

                                2. There is a Izakaya restaurant locally that serves a Japanese chicken Tare tare.This from Wikipedia: Chicken "sashimi", known as toriwasa, is considered by some to be a delicacy; the Nagoya kōchin, French poulet de Bresse and its American derivative, the blue foot chicken, are favored by many for this purpose

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: chefj

                                    Raw chicken meat is fairly commonplace here in Japan. I have had it countless times, and have never gotten sick from it.

                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                      Exactly so the idea that it is "deadly" is kinda silly.

                                      1. re: chefj

                                        Okay, so perhaps not "deadly" to everyone. I'm kind of thinking you knew exactly what I meant.

                                        But as for silly? Just like with eggs, for a normal adult with a healthy immune system, most likely nothing more than a couple of days in the bathroom. For youngsters, the elderly, & anyone with a compromised immune system, contracting Salmonella CAN definitely be "deadly" & is anything but silly.

                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                          "Most likely" yes, but there is a small liklihood of the far more serious disease Guillain-Barré Syndrome resulting from Campylobacter jejuni infection. It is prudent to consider not only risk, but the severity of the possible consequences.

                                          1. re: GH1618

                                            Hey - I'm with you!! I was simply replying to "Chefj" saying my use of the word "deadly" in my original post was "silly".

                                            1. re: Bacardi1

                                              OK, but I understood "deadly" to be an exaggeration for dramatic effect.

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                Good grief - I was just reiterating what is a widely held belief, dramatic or not. Is it worth an argument? I really don't think so, & I apologize if my wording upset you.

                                                1. re: Bacardi1

                                                  I'm not arguing and I'm not upset. Chill.

                                      2. re: Tripeler

                                        There are two problems here. The first is that one person's experience does not establish whether or to what extent there is contamination in the chicken supply generally, only that the possibility of contamination is less than 100% (which, of course, it would be). The second is that food inspection standards in one country cannot be expected to apply to another.

                                        I would have thought that poultry inspection would be more thorough in Japan, where chicken is sometimes eaten raw, however Campylobacter contamination occurs even there:


                                      3. re: chefj

                                        I see from your profile that you're in the East Bay. I thought of that Izakaya restaurant too when I saw the title of this thread. I assume they don't kill off their customers. Do they just have very, very high quality meat?

                                        1. re: Glencora

                                          I sure hope so! and I am sure that it is handled very carefully.

                                      4. To some of the people upthread (I couldn't post directly). Besides death, for example, e coli--just one pathogen found in undercooked meat, or other foods, can cause permanent kidney damage, among other things. Saying that you've eaten raw chicken and never having experienced any bad effects is like saying that you've crossed a busy road in the middle of traffic and not been hit. You've had some luck.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Wawsanham

                                          When my wife and I lived in the United States, we were informed about a farm-source of duck eggs in Los Angeles County.

                                          This "farm" was along the 605 freeway and faced the storm drainage canal built by the Los Angeles County Public Works Department. The people were very friendly and did sell us eggs, but the term "farm" was a bit of a stretch. For all we know it may still be there.

                                          Dirty, dusty, crowded, but they were very concerned about any wild ducks flying in and contaminating the stock. Entering, we were asked to clean and decomtaminate or shoes, something not usual to farms in Asia, including to Japan. There had been a number of contaminations in California over the years, we were told, and sadly the entire stocks were culled.

                                          We were told that the duck stocks were transported into Los Angeles for processing, primarily for the Asian market. We only wanted eggs, and were assured that they were pathogen free. Nonetheless, we never cracked them on the pan we used when later cooking or baking with them. But I return back to duck meat concerns.

                                          Duck diseases include plague (enteritis ), hepatitis, cholera, and aspergillosis, a mold-spore disease also known to humans. All it takes is a sick duck, or for that matter one sick processor or cook, and there you are. Would it be any different in Asia ?

                                          Having graduated from Waseda University, I have tried about every Japanese delicacy there is raw or cooked, just short of Fugu. Medically, I would avoid raw duck or chicken, or any avian meat for many of the good reasons posted above.

                                          Slow but well-cooked meat can be both delicious, moist, tender, and safe.

                                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                            The 605 duck farm was done away with some years back, but when we moved here in 2000 it was still there. I remember it well; I never actually went there, but our car at the time had no AC, and in my job-hunting exercises I made many trips up and down the 605, and on a hot, smoggy day the "whiff" off the duck farm was almost visible.

                                            Someone is still raising them somewhere, since I've seen balut (live-embryo) duck eggs in some Asian markets.

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              Thank you for the update, Will.

                                              I had forgotten about the wonderful fragrance. Remarkably, I do not miss the 605 traffic.

                                        2. answer this-- is a chicken a duck?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. What is it about rare duck that is tastier than fully cooked duck?

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              Rare duck is almost surely not 'tastier' just as rare tuna is not 'tastier' than fully cooked tuna.

                                              We are getting into the question of texture, mouthfeel, etc.

                                              1. re: Steve

                                                But don't forget that with Chinese-style roast duck & etc the duck is always "done through". Other Chinese dishes with duck pieces/meat are rarely done with the duck less than "done through". Some chicken dishes, such as Hainan Chicken Rice, or "Pak Chit Kai", etc are often done so that the bone marrow is still slightly bloody and the flesh *just* slightly pink around the bones.

                                                With European cuisine - I prefer my duck breast to be medium-rare to medium (pink in the center) rather than rare (bloody).

                                            2. I don't have an answer -- but in Europe, duck is consumed nearly as often as chicken, eating it cooked beyond a pink center is considered a travesty....and yet I've never read or heard of a single foodborne illness linked to duck cooked rare.

                                              There are lots of physiological differences (beyond appearance) between chickens and ducks, even though we consider them all poultry. There's some other reason why duck doesn't carry the same pathogens that chicken does.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Clarification: you are only taking about duck breast.

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  No, I'm not.

                                                  Duck is extremely common in France -- legs and breasts -- granted, it's rarely served as a whole roasted duck, but duck pieces appear on a LOT of tables, both private and restaurant, all across the country, as well as being as easily available in supermarkets as chicken or turkey.

                                                  You generally have to cook the legs and thighs to well done because otherwise it's so honking tough that it's inedible....but that has nothing to do with safety.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Can you get Chinese roast ducks in Europe/France? How are they done?

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      the Paris Store near me is doing Canard Laquée for €16 for a whole duck, but dangit, I haven't had the chance to try one yet. (both times I've been in there lately I was on my way somewhere else, so couldn't buy anything perishable)

                                                      They smell awesome, and from the appearance, I'd say those are done through, like a roasted chicken.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        Ooooh! Please arrange your schedule so that you can pick one up - and report on it henceforth!

                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                          I knoooow. I've been working kin to cain't lately -- but I have a day off on Wednesday, and was already thinking about the duck.