Has anyone tried butchering ducks that are 2-3 years old? I'm not sure if they'll be too old and tough to enjoy at this point.
Has anyone tried it? Were they still tender?
The age of the animal being butchered has nothing to do with the tenderness of the meat. The age of an animal impacts meat flavor more than it influences tenderness. An older animal moves more over time, which creates more blood circulation and it’s that circulation that creates flavor compounds, making older meat more flavorful.What's Influenced Most by an Animal's Age: Meat Tenderness or Flavor? | Grand View Outdoors
Proper aging is the key to making meat from older animals tender and delicious. Aging is an ancient practice which consists of hanging the carcass in a cool environment such as a barn or a walk-in cooler for a number of hours, days or weeks. “Aging is controlled rot,” says Danforth. “There are certain enzymes that are present in the meat that are kept in check while the animal is alive that ‘go rogue’ after the animal dies. They begin to snip at the proteins that make muscles contract and at the connective tissues.” In doing so, these enzymes render the meat both more flavorful and more tender. Aging also allows some moisture to evaporate, leading to a concentration of flavors in the meat. And fat begins to oxidize, adding a desirable, nutty flavor to the meat.
The Case For Eating Older Animals
People who aren't fans of duck often complain that they find the meat to be chewy, which is totally valid. Duck breast is certainly chewier than chicken breast, especially when it's undercooked (I strongly believe that duck breast is best cooked to at least medium for this reason). However, dry-aged duck breast is so much more tender than unaged duck breast, even when cooked to the same exact temperature.
How to Dry-Age Duck at Home
Killing the animal properly also affects the flavor, tenderness and quality of the meat.
Home processing of poultry
Butchering by Adam Danforth $22 on Amazon wonderful book on butchering and aging of meat.