It was a hazy, brisk fall day as some forty PSPA members and guests travelled to the rolling hills outside Shartlesville, PA – about 15 miles north of Reading.
Near the town of Hamburg is the Joe Jurgielewicz & Son, Ltd., producers and distributors of premium duckling for four generations. Starting on Long Island, NY, but soon running out of land, Joseph Jurgielewicz, Jr., DVM, Cornell University, moved to favorable land and climate in Pennsylvania. Here, quality duck production and processing has been second to none.
Egg Production and Hatching
We observed the daily, in the early morning hours, hand gathering of eggs. Up to 20,000 a day, each individually inspected about three times, then placed by size in a computerized, temperature-controlled and automatically-rotated incubator before hatching in four weeks.
Growing the Hatch
The baby ducklings are placed in open-fenced dividers about 20 feet square with feeding and water nipples ever-available as they can best individually determine when and what they want to feed and drink. The frames are shaded from the sun and in open air that is thermostatically-controlled. Side drapes are dropped if conditions are too windy or temperature adverse.
As the ducklings grow, they are moved a few yards down in the same grow out facility where they are routinely checked for conditioning and growth. When a batch is moved, their previous location is thoroughly cleaned and washed before the next flock is moved in. Realize there are several barns with similar production conditions, all under the control and supervision of a skilled and devoted staff directed by “Dr. Joe.”
After 42 days to reach 71/2 lbs., the duck is ready for harvesting. Again, they are inspected for health and market readiness.
Processing for Market
This process, to the uninitiated, appears incredibly efficient and immaculate. It is all of that! On top of that, there is no odor, no noise – much unlike past history. Computer technology sends the birds along processing lines, but teams of staff members are watching every step with trained eyes and hands. The ducks are instantly euthanized, virtually pain-free. The product is treated with efficient respect throughout. After all, the company’s reputation hinges on each and every product.
Feathers are removed by picking machines and then the ducks are immersed in warm wax. This then cools and the wax is stripped off with specialized equipment under immaculate conditions. The wax treatment is then repeated to insure complete feather removal.
Specific requirements are necessary for individual customers. Asian markets want the full body of the duck with head and feet; others want head and feet intact, but insides removed. The average consumer wants heads and feet removed. Some want flash-frozen bodies; others prefer basic refrigeration.
Large refrigerated trucks leave daily for New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore. The end of the week finds ducklings being picked up for delivery all over The United States, including the West Coast.
Dr. Jurgielewicz maintains an exceptionally informative and inviting website: www.tastyduck.com. On it are excellent, easily accomplished recipies.
A most informative and intriguing tour of the blend of natural production with the combination of professional human oversight and the most modern immaculate processing. Now for some duck for lunch!
Haag’s Hotel in Shartlesville, Pa. served a most generous Pennsylvania Dutch Style Buffet featuring compellingly delicious duck strips presented by “Dr. Joe”. He also gave a power-point presentation of additional insight into the business of how essential it is to know each market and their requirements and desires…and to make them try some new approaches and promotions. Roast duck for Thanksgiving? For President’s Day? Why not, it’s historical.