Duck fat has a rich history in French cuisine as the key ingredient in savoury cassoulets and confits, but now industrious farmers are turning the grease into biodiesel and biogas.
A farm co-operative based in St. Aquilin, a rural village in the southwestern region of the Dordogne, is powering a tractor and two other vehicles with biodiesel made from duck fat and hopes to convince others to do the same.
The animal product is in no short supply in this scenic area where two million of the web-footed birds are raised each year, according to the regional agricultural council.
“We’re really doing this out of activism, to recognize that we have to do something to help save the planet. We should stop the big speeches and start with little acts,” said Jules Charmoy, who raises russet-hued Limousin cattle on his organic farm.
Concerned about the world’s reliance on oil, Charmoy and a partner identified a recycling need close to home given the profusion of duck used by many restaurants and food businesses.
Their 50-farm co-operative of like-minded farmers collects the fat from neighbouring businesses once every two weeks, and then makes a veritable duck soup that will end up as fuel.
“We also have frying oil and fat from pigs and calves. There’s a little bit of everything in there but the dominant thing is duck because we’re in the Dordogne,” said Charmoy, 37.
Before being used as vehicle fuel it is mixed in a 30 to 70 per cent ratio with diesel as per French law, said Charmoy.
The group produced 20,000 litres (4,399 Imp. gallons) last year of the biodisel which costs about 20 per cent more than the discounted diesel farmers are allowed to buy.
Despite its ecological and culinary attributes, duck fat has its downside, according to one skeptical post in a U.S. online forum on biodiesel.
“Chicken fat is great, duck fat apparently makes cars waddle,” it read.